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Like Ralph Ashworth’s Killer of Orchids last year, this novel with its tongue-twisting title seemingly came out of nowhere to land squarely on my list of favorites for this year.
That’s not to imply that the two mysteries resemble each other, though one could apply similar adjectives to both: brash, quirky, unconventional, in your face, humorous, audacious. (How about that cover for willfully misleading buyers!) If I had to compare Woodward’s work to someone else’s, I would choose Poppy Z. Brite’s Rickey and G-Man series; they have a somewhat similar genial spirit, great affection for their characters … and love of food.
RBBB’s setting is Jason’s Rendezvous, an unnamed city’s restaurant and largest gay brothel. One evening, 18-year-old Logan Barnes shows up at the kitchen door: cold, hungry, seeking refuge after three weeks of having to hustle to support himself, disowned by his small town parents upon being caught having sex with the owner of a local convenience store. Offered a job by Antoine the cook, the cross-dressing Jason’s husband, Logan is quickly smitten with one of the brothel’s working boys, teenager Mike Evans. He is the father of one-year-old Timothy, whom Mike adores even though he was the inadvertent result of a staged sex act at another club and whose mother was mysteriously murdered shortly afterwards.
Now, almost as soon as Logan arrives, a series of escalating attacks occur in the brothel and at the home where Mike keeps his son, resulting in another death and the abduction of the baby. Along the way, the reader meets more than a dozen characters with a dazzling array of eccentricities, yet the author’s mastery is such that one instantly recognizes each person upon his re-entry into the story.
The 36 short chapters clip along at breakneck pace, till all comes right in the end and the novel ends with an absolutely perfect, laugh-out-loud concluding sentence. This is a book not to be missed.
RUBBER BABY BUGGY BUMPERS
By I.E. Woodward
Paperback, 169 p., $13.95
Hardback, 169 p., $23.95