MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE by Josh Pryor

MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Unfortunate shenanigans involving monkeys, Saddam Hussein, and secret research labs.

In the future, every book will look like this—or so the publisher assures us, claiming that we’re in for the “futuristic satire” of a Kurt Vonnegut, the “edgy neo-noir” of a Jonathan Lethem, and the “maniacal narrative charge” of a Chuck Palahniuk. All of which is patently untrue. Pryor’s genre-blender debut centers on Doug Flowers, one of the military assassins who’d been assigned to Operation Slay Dracula (“Dracula” being Saddam Hussein) back in the Gulf War, Part One. After laying waste to a multitude of Saddam look-alikes, he failed in his mission, and now all those who worked in “Dracula” have been killed off, one by one, by Saddam’s people back in the US, except for Flowers. While he’s being chased down by his assigned killer (who in this kind of book is, of course, a gorgeous pre-op transsexual named Mr. Wonderful), he’s also working as a pretty lousy private eye and investigating some weird goings-on at a monkey research lab in present-day or near-future Los Angeles. It looks as though one of the monkeys has killed a couple of the other primates, and, for reasons left mostly to the imagination, Flowers is considered the man to get to the bottom of the mystery. Meantime, his wife—who knows neither about his “Dracula” past nor his Mr. Wonderful present—appears to be having an affair, and there’s a comely scientist who seems to have an unhealthy attachment to her research chimp and who also seems to be attracted to Flowers. All of this is related in prose that attempts to destabilize the reader by freely jumping about in time.

The result is simply confusion: transitions from scene to scene are missing or clumsy, and a coherent flow of action and dialogue fails to emerge.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7867-1173-6
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2003