Take a plot inspired by old Hitchcock movies, stir in bad guys cribbed from Dostoevsky, apply a wisecracking, well-read New York City detective transported from the set of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and the result is this debut novel.
Comedian, actor and nonfiction author Belzer (UFOs, JFK, and Elvis, 2000) applies his fondness for dime novels and conspiracy theories to hard-boiled noir. The book perfectly captures the author’s comedic voice, primarily because he’s made himself the metafictional hero. “Belz,” the actor, is on his way to a championship fight at Madison Square Garden when he runs into a bunch of NYC cops searching for his friend Rudy Markovich, a Russian immigrant turned medical examiner. “I’d played a cop on TV long enough to assume, and had enough life experience to know, that when the men in blue show up, it’s not usually good news,” Belz comments. He soon meets Markovich’s strawberry-blond daughter, Anna Katrina Doskeav, and receives a mysterious encoded letter from his disappeared friend. “The old Thirty-nine Steps routine,” says Belzer, who name-checks thriller lore from Call Northside Seven-Seven-Seven to Three Days of the Condor. To assist him in his investigation, the ersatz detective enlists a lovely black media rep to serve as his Girl Friday and a Hong Kong superstar to give him kung fu lessons. The plot, involving Ukrainian politics, diamond smuggling and an icy member of the Russian mafiya, is disposable, but Belzer’s snappy narration and behind-the-scenes look at life as a famous actor (frequently mistaken for CSI’s William Petersen) gives the book a sharp, funny edge.
A weird, surprisingly quick-witted comedic caper.