I know from reading The Burn Palace by award-winning author Stephen Dobyns that he not only writes excellent thrillers but they’re decidedly quirky…i.e., he’s got a great snarky sense of humor. And you know I like my fellow snarky people. So when the publisher approached me about reading and possibly reviewing his latest novel, Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?, I knew from the quirky cover that it was probably going to be a real treat – and I was right. Now I don’t want to downplay the gruesomeness in this novel because it definitely has a yuck factor that makes it perfect to Halloween reading. At the same time, it’s got a bit of the theater of the absurd going on, which kept me entertained even during the gory parts. Like a good mystery/thriller with quirky humor thrown in? Then you’ll definitely want to enter our giveaway because two of you are going to win copies of Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? – Booyah!
It all started one day in New London, Connecticut when Connor Raposo, who was a newcomer to this New England town, saw a really gruesome motorcycle accident right in the middle of town. To say he was traumatized by seeing a dump truck reverse into and cut the rider in half might normally have been an understatement. That kind of thing could put any person into therapy for life, although at the moment Connor is more ticked off than anything else.
“Connor Raposo’s Mini-Cooper remains trapped. There’s no getting it out until a lot of other cars are moved. He holds the dead man’s motorcycle cap and stands on the curb near the cobbler’s shop, trying not to be pissed off. Who’s he going to get pissed off at, the dead guy on the Harley Marco Santuzza? Connor has work to do, money to liberate from other people’s pockets, like it or not, and he won’t make a dime standing around Bank Street…Connor has already spoken to two detectives about what he saw, which was nothing except the flash of the Harley going by…At the moment Connor stares at an old bum in a Red Sox cap swatting at something behind him, though Connor sees nothing behind him. The swatting is secretive and angry, and what seems especially odd is the old guy keeps looking in Connor’s direction, though Connor is sure he’s never seen him before.”
What a tragic accident…or was it? Manny Streeter and Denny Vikstrom, the detectives assigned to the case, begin to have their doubts. As evidence builds, they begin to think it just might be premeditated murder – as bizarre as that sounds even to them.
“Fat Bob’s ex-wife eyes Herta and Moss Jackson as a Sunday School teacher might eye a group of snot-flicking ten-year-olds…Manny feels she has too many teeth…And he can’t get past her moustache. It scares him. Women like that throw things.
Vikstrom moves forward. ‘Excuse me, who’re you talking about?
Herta looks at Vikstrom as if he’s slow in the head. ‘Her ex showed up to get something.’
‘Fat Bob’s alive?’ Vikstrom regrets the question as soon as he asks. The woman at the table and two detectives give him what a dummy looks, while Manny moves back a few steps to separate himself from his partner. He stares at his fingernails to show that his thoughts are elsewhere.
‘I thought he was killed downtown. He crashed his bike into a truck.’
The what a dummy looks intensify. ‘It wasn’t Robert Rossi on the bike,’ says Herta. ‘But the bike belonged to him all right.’
‘Rossi busted in here thirty minutes ago,’ says Moss Jackson…’He’s not supposed to come within thirty feet of the house, so his ex called the cops. Before they got here, some guys in a green Ford shot up the Harley. Rossi ran out the back door. The Ford took off when they heard us coming. Neighbors heard more gunshots but we haven’t found any bodies.’
Angelina Rossi gives Vikstrom a cool look. ‘Bob’s got money hidden in the house. That’s what he’s after. Technically it’s mine, for all the shit I been through. If he’s dead, I inherit. I’ll go straight to Vegas.’”
While Manny and Denny are investigating the motorcycle incident, Connor is conducting an investigation of his own – one upon which his life or death might balance. Is Fat Bob really alive or is he dead? The more Connor learns, the more he begins to sweat. Something is going on here that is far more complicated than he thought, and it looks like he’s stuck right in the middle of it whether he wants to be or not.
I’m not going to tell you anything about the characters in this novel because anything I say will produce spoilers. Why? Because basically no one and nothing is what it seems on the surface, which is part of what makes this mysterious novel so interesting. Dobyns has us unearth clues as the detectives and Connor unearth clues, so we never know WTH is going to happen next – yep, there are lots of hairpin turns in this masterfully written thriller.
Given the cover, I expected some lightweight, maybe even cutesy, book – wrong. Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? kept me on my toes, grossed me out in places, caused me to laugh out loud, and basically I just had a ton of fun reading it. Stephen Dobyns has done it again. For an author who’s also known for his amazing poetry collection, Dobyns really knows how to write novels that I find almost impossible to put down.
Can’t wait to read it?
I’d love to get your comments on Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?
Click here to read our review of The Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns.
Two lucky readers will each win 1 copy of Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? By Stephen Dobyns. One reader will win a finished hardcover copy and one will win an ARC (advance readers copy)…with that decision being made by automated randomizer software.
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 11/7/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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7) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!