This story wraps a mystery in an enigma, cloaks it in allusion, and ties it up neatly in harebrained humor. K, an overly erudite killer who speaks and thinks in a nonstop stream of wisecracks, bons mots, and epigrams, begins to feel guilt over his career choice after his latest hit urbanely informs him as he lies dying, “I believe you’ve mistaken me for someone else, my good man.” This sense of disquiet is exacerbated when a man dressed as a nun in a Sally Field mask on a fat-wheeled mountain bike tells him that he is on the wrong side, supplying him with anagrams to back up his statement. After “The HEAD” (K’s “bobble-head” of a boss, whose syntax is reminiscent of Yoda’s) tries to kill him, K is finally convinced. He sets out on a journey to Wyoming, encountering a Shakespearean pornography shop, a Native American shaman who worships basketball legend Michael Jordan, earth-mother mysticism, as well as his tripped-out brother-in-law, his nagging sister, their adopted Shoshone daughter, and massive doses of self-doubt, existential ennui, linguistics lessons, and peyote. As K follows leads, including those fed to him by unlikely seers, soothsayers, prophets, and saviors, he discovers a plot that, quite literally, will shake the Earth’s foundations. Meanwhile, he also falls in love with a newscaster. The climax arrives in a complex amalgam of soul-searching, mysticism, psychedelics, and good old-fashioned action. Equal parts James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and Dave Barry, this farcical romp is packed with puns, literary references, anagrams, palindromes, and all manner of wordplay, including a lipogram—an obscure word game in which one avoids using a particular letter or group of letters. Krass manages to successfully juggle the book’s multiple levels while delivering dialogue that’s a series of one-liners—some intellectual, some aimed at the gut. At the same time, he skillfully moves the action along, maintaining tension and an overall sense of mystery, and wields a biting wit with such unique imagery as “tumbleweed eyebrows” and twisted, invented words, such as “alwaysthemore” and “lessunder.” Overall, it’s a well-plotted, intricate work filled with humor, insight, and adventure.
This clever mystery will particularly delight hard-core wordophiles—and send them scrambling for the dictionary.