A psychiatric patient who believes he’s a British spy escapes from a mental institution and finds himself embroiled in real intrigue in this debut comedy.
James Flynn grew up in California and was orphaned when he was 10 years old, shuffled from one foster home to another. But as an adult, he’s convinced he works for the British Secret Service and that his home, the City of Roses Psychiatric Institute, is his agency’s headquarters. He speaks in a British accent, walks the halls in swanky suits, and habitually seduces fawning female nurses. When the institute is taken over by a new administration, headed by the insufferable Dr. Grossfarber, James escapes, confident that the Secret Service has been compromised by adversaries. He finds Sancho, a 22-year-old orderly at City of Roses, and drags him into the search for Dulcie Delgadillo, a beautiful, young drug addict released from the institute, who James believes has been kidnapped. Once at her apartment, he finds a loaded revolver and a duffel bag crammed with cash, which belong to Dulcie’s abusive boyfriend, Mike Croker, a motorcycle gang member involved in drug dealing. James uses the money to outfit himself in an Armani suit, buys an Aston Martin, and is pursued both by drug dealers intent on retrieving their stolen cash and the police looking to return him to the institute. James then stumbles on a major crime boss’s plot to kidnap the world’s 10 richest people in an attempt to profit from the global stock market collapse that he believes will ensue. Orkin pays comedic homage to Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the obvious fictional inspiration for James’ flights of deluded fantasy. But unlike that work’s treatment of Quixote’s hallucinations, it remains tantalizingly unclear if James is sane or not—he’s uncannily talented at being an action hero for someone theatrically posing as one. This is really a novella, at under 160 pages, and the plot moves at breakneck speed. The author’s prose is so buoyant that it borders on gleeful, with James dispensing words of wisdom to Sancho (“A man is like a teabag….You never know how strong he is until you dip him in hot water”). Orkin skillfully manages to create a story that is genuinely amusing, tenderly moving, and decidedly thoughtful.
A manically funny farce both delightfully absurd and strangely plausible.