By Jon Loomis
St. Martin’s Minotaur, $23.95
Blending razor-sharp wit and laugh-out-loud comedic elements with a hellacious whodunit, this debut novel from Wisconsin poet Jon Loomis is reminiscent of Gregory Mcdonald’s first few Fletch novels as well as early works by Carl Hiaasen (“Tourist Season," “Double Whammy”).
Set in Provincetown, Mass., and featuring quirky, 43-year-old police Detective Frank Coffin—who is afflicted by nightmares and panic attacks from years working as a Baltimore homicide police officer—the mystery begins when the body of a strangled 240-pound man wearing a pink and yellow floral muumuu (and size 12 dove gray pumps with sensible heels) is found in the dunes. The murder victim turns out to be the vacationing Rev. Ron Merkin, a televangelist famous for his anti-gay tirades. Once the scahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifndalous story breaks, the tranquil gay resort community will undoubtedly be inundated with frenzied reporters from all over the country, and it falls onto Coffin’s shoulders to quickly and quietly track down the killer. But when other locals start turning up gruesomely dead, well, “weirdness ensues.”
Although the murder mystery is suitably challenging, it’s the brilliantly irreverent peripheral characters (a cantankerous, Surrealist painter/madman; a yoga-practicing vegetarian stalker; a foul-mouthed parrot named Captain Nickerson) and innumerable twisted witticisms (“The baby was fat and waxy. It looked like Don Rickles.”) that make this debut one to be cherished. The book features an impressive diversity of murder weapons—from a raspberry-colored taffeta scarf to a pneumatic nail gun—and fans of humorous mystery à la Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich should thoroughly enjoy this darkly comic Cape Cod caper.