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THE PLUMBER OF SOULS by Michael Guinzburg


by Michael Guinzburg

Pub Date: July 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-7867-1323-2

A sophomoric exercise in transgressive fiction, Guinzburg’s latest follows a shadowy church spy who travels throughout Europe, on the orders of the Pope, uncovering plots and assassinating evildoers.

Although the Plumber, as he is known, is an ordained priest, he is more likely to remind you of Michael Corleone than Guido Sarducci. A confidante of the “Big Kielbasa” (the Pope), he serves as a kind of general fixer and point man for the Vatican, specializing in cases that require both ruthlessness and tact. He describes four of his cases for our edification. The first (“The Millionth Passenger”) starts out as a tale of love gone awry, in which a gay photographer is hired to do publicity work for a foie-gras magnate and becomes the obsession of his boss’s wife and daughter, as well as of a local nun. Despite the operatic atmosphere, the tale ends up as a case of simple theft (an ancient toothpick is stolen from the effects of a dead cardinal). In the second account (“The Billionth Burger”), the young heiress to an Anglo-Italian meatpacking fortune confesses the strange circumstances (involving Hindus) by which her family loosed Mad Cow disease upon the world. The third (“The Trillionth Shit”), told by a denizen of the Parisian sewers, describes a messianic cult called the Merdistes that awaits the coming of a great, well, movement that will transform the world. And in his final offering (“The Zillionth Star”), the Plumber infiltrates a clinic for pederasts to uncover a computer billionaire’s plot to clone a race of handsome boys for the private enjoyment of wealthy clients.

A big disappointment: Although just about everyone will find something to be offended by herein, Guinzburg’s (Beam Me Up Scotty, 1993, etc.) evident desire to shock gives the exercise a rather pale and academic tone overall.