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You have to be crazy to get involved in a murder.

How crazy? Roy Belkin is just this side of certifiable. He’s retreated into a world of OCD rituals so time-consuming that he rarely interacts with other people. Instead, he’s addicted to the Helping Hands website, where he leaves outrageous, offensive comments about queries posted by its deeply religious users. When Roy does venture out, it’s to visit his father, a demented cryptologist sequestered by the Feds, who pay Roy a monthly stipend as the dependent of an “employee.” His hyperorganized life is ended by a fire in his San Francisco apartment building that reveals a charred corpse complete with a bullet hole. When his luscious neighbor Pernice Balfour asks him what happened, Roy irrationally tells her that he’s a detective. Pernice, whose racy pictures have been found along with the body of Frank Relpher, and whose closet contains accelerant and a gun, is jailed on suspicion of murder. Roy’s vow to help her leads him to a man as knowledgeable as his father about Cave-Urdu dialogue, a priest who knew Pernice from her charity work and a crime scene photographer who offers clues in exchange for naked shots of Roy. Detective Morpello makes little headway on the case; worse, he mistakes Roy for a perp, or so he says, and shoots at him. Still, Roy perseveres, and after more tips from the creepy crime photographer, Bible quotations from Pernice, knowing silences from the priest and a prescient dream, he realizes how the arson was started and the bullet fired.

Michaels, best known as the front man for the band Operation Ivy, creates a unique narrative voice, but it takes a lot of magical thinking to make this surreal plot work.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59376-530-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2013


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