Thirty-one-year-old Casey, unemployed and living with his mother, finds a friendly soul in Doug, as both men are looking for ways to make money in their affluent California county. But it turns out that their meeting wasn’t happenstance: Doug’s live-in lover, Marie, told him to find someone they could use for her sinister, criminal plan. Doug wants to leave Marie, but she thrives on exerting control over him; she gives Doug a monetary allowance while also working her wiles on Casey. Her violent biker ex-boyfriend, Nicky, also has a role in her scheme, providing her with parts for a device she plans to use. But when Marie’s dominance wanes, she’ll do whatever it takes to see that her plan comes to fruition—even if means killing someone. Readers will find it fairly easy to figure out Casey’s role in the plan, even though it isn’t revealed until near the end. However, Miller’s plot is really just a vehicle for introducing an animated cast of characters, including bartender Paul, who seems to have a British accent despite being American; Casey’s foulmouthed, cat-loving mother; and Doug’s co-worker Cookie, who has an affinity for poetry. The book engages in bouts of black humor but also delves into its share of gloom; for example, Marie hates her father so intensely—for something a therapist “helped her remember”—that she imagines killing him in various ways. A scene in which Doug suggests the possibility of seeing someone else romantically leads to a response from Marie that’s surprisingly unnerving. The most dynamic (and hilarious) character is Nicky, despite his fondness for aggressive behavior, particularly against “rubbies,” rich urban bikers. He makes tomfoolery seem perfectly reasonable, and his former job sprucing up run-down mopeds and selling them on Craigslist somehow makes sense in context.
This engaging comic novel’s story and characters will draw readers in.