FREE by Todd Komarnicki


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 A high concept from screenwriter Komarnicki: a homeless man turns detective to solve a series of murders. The execution, though, is middling--and muddled. Komarnicki brings a bit of authenticity to his first novel: He does volunteer work for a homeless shelter in Santa Monica. And so narrator Jefferson Alexander Freeman, a.k.a. ``Free,'' is a half- believable creation, a 30-year-old as lonely as ``a rhinoceros,'' with few memories of the days before he ended up--victim of some buried trauma--in New Orleans 13 years back. (Free's mind has been further confused by a fall through a stained-glass window, embedding glass in his skull, from which it protrudes ``like the rough outline of a horn.'') But Free is a nice homeless man, who won't beg for a living or stare at the strippers peeling in the bar he haunts; who has all his teeth; who doesn't do drugs (he throws away a chanced-upon fortune in heroin); and who cares enough about the murder of his ``buddy'' with the odd tattoo on his shoulder blade, and then that of a stripper-pal with a similar tattoo, to sleuth out the killer--all this as likely as Free's love affair with the equally lonely Chinese-American lady cop assigned to the killings. The tattoo-trail takes the duo to Hong Kong, where they tie killings in to a heroin-smuggling ring muled by America-bound refugees fleeing the imminent Red takeover--and not only does Free help solve the case but he recalls his life-shattering trauma, after which revelation the glass in his skull miraculously dissolves, leaving him a rhino no more: and on Christmas Eve, no less. Some nice insights into the homeless life--but, overall, a smart idea gets beaten senseless by overwriting.

Pub Date: July 6th, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-46849-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993


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