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Unlike Echoes of Zero (1981), which was patently (and effectively) silly throughout, Spencer's new mystery-comedy shifts back and forth between all-out farce and quasi-realistic suspense--with results that are vaguely intriguing, often irritating. The narrator-hero is Chicago's Luke Lassiter, ""a second-rate private detective and a third-rate writer of fiction,"" yet irresistible stuff, apparently, to a swarm of sexually voracious women. Luke is currently living with gorgeous, ever-naked, Shakespeare-quoting, licorice-loving Crystal Ball, adored daughter of a Neanderthal-ish mobster. But, despite growing True Love for Crystal, Luke is also involved in an affair with sultry Barbara, wife of TV-evangelist Rev. Johnny Huskin--even though Huskin has just hired a shamus (none other than Luke himself!) to monitor Barbara's fishy evening activities. Meanwhile, too, Luke finds himself in bed with fat, blind literary agent Pamela Frost--whom he meets when he joins a scare to fake the writing and appearance of a posthumous novel by the late, great pulpster Carl Garvey (who may not be really dead!). This scam succeeds, but people (Garvey's widow and lawyer, to name two) start getting killed. The Huskin affair also gets messy--with a murder, a tangentially related heist (the novel's dippiest sequence), and lots of blackmail. So things get impossibly hectic before the whimsical finale (two more dead), even though Spencer tries to play it straight--and sentimental--when sweet, pregnant Crystal becomes one of the casualties. A few funny moments, a few fetching ideas, and an elaborate plot that's too goofy to take seriously. . .but too serious (even grim) to be absurdist fun.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1986
Publisher: Mysterious Press--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux