Stich’s latest novel (The Rise of the New Queen, 2006) is a darkly comic thriller about a man who stumbles upon a secret society involved in murder, corporate gambling—and drag races.
Edward Bloodgood’s first day at Dallas-based Corpotex goes off without a hitch, until he gets a ride from a beautiful woman named Deidra and ends the night by helping to kill a corrupt cop while riding shotgun in a drag-racing pink hearse. The races are popular among his fellow wagering business execs, and the next day, racer Edward moves from a cubicle to an office upstairs. The money’s good, but it doesn’t last long; soon, he and Deidra suspect that various companies are involved in assassinations—and that they may be asked to carry them out. As the strange story progresses, readers may find it increasingly difficult to label it with a particular genre, as it displays aspects of a thriller, a comedy, an espionage story and even a sci-fi novel (starting when Deidra candidly tells Edward that a bartender is an alien). Edward sometimes comes across as a dullard, as he’s slower to comprehend things than most readers will be; “I don’t understand” at times seems to be his catchphrase. However, his habitual stammering plays well against the tough, headstrong Deidra, who makes Edward look better by simply taking a liking to him. The couple’s relationship develops convincingly, as both willingly face treacherous circumstances on the other’s behalf. The energetic story is packed with amusing imagery: businessmen texting during a presentation at a table “covered in sugary flakes and colorful sprinkles like confetti”; a professor visited by obnoxious aliens having way too much fun; and an endless barrage of madcap characters, including Johnny Feinstein, Deidra’s skinny, bucktoothed, green-pompadour–sporting racing adversary. Readers may be surprised by how much of the plot is left unresolved, but most relevant questions are answered, including the secret society’s origins. As it’s the first in a proposed series, further elucidations are sure to come.
An entertaining story of assassins, aliens and race cars.