A big, leisurely paced thriller, the first novel for playwright and screenwriter Karp, traces an insidious, insider terrorist attack on a Disney-like cartoon empire in L.A.
The Rambunctious Rabbit is the Mickey Mouse of creator Dean Lamaar’s vast, popular theme park, Familyland, and the seminal character to be attacked in an attempt to dismantle the animation network based in Costa Luna, Calif. The man strangled in the rabbit suit was in fact a convicted pedophile, leaving the two LAPD homicide detectives assigned to the case, Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, scratching their heads at how the man got a job working with kids. The casualties pile up over the course of two weeks: A former Lamaar producer is whacked with a bat; a visitor to Familyland is stabbed in the public bathroom; a bomb is set off at a Dallas Burger King, which has developed promotional tie-ins with Lamaar. Who’s behind these scarily well-planned attacks aimed at humiliating Lamaar Studios, built up by the genius of now-deceased Dean Lamaar and four of his World War II army buddies—The Cartoon Corp? Protagonist Lomax is a 42-year-old widower, tough-talking but sensitive, and not quite ready to start dating despite the strong-arming of his father, Big Jim, a retired Teamster. In fact, Lomax is still wading sorrowfully through the letters his dead wife left him. During the course of the investigation, all kinds of intriguing subplots erupt, but it’s the history of Lamaar Studios that proves key, as the elder members of the Cartoon Corp. express resentment at the vulgar course the network has veered since Dean’s death, and the son of one of them, Danny Eeg, still simmers at what he considers unfair treatment of his father. Karp craftily engineers a statement on ethical values, both institutional and personal.
A bloated piece of work, devoted more to the pleasure of reading than the offer of a dazzling dénouement.