Formerly Fingerman, the second novel from Joe Nelms, is an amusing comic thriller that doesn’t quite live up to the expectations raised by its early chapters.
Brad Fingerman is a recently fired advertising art director who is working in a chicken costume handing out promotional fliers for Chicken Lickens. Leaving in an elevator after a job interview, he is present at a mob hit, and the FBI wants him as a witness. He is sent off in a witness protection program to await the trial of the supposed killer, a notorious mob boss. It doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose.
The story gets complicated as Nelms manages to weave together a mess of strange characters and absurd threads—an FBI agent who wants to be the next Greta Van Susteren, a 57-year old judge yet to lose his virginity, a U.S. Marshall who can read facial muscles, an in-house ad agency for adult diapers, a conspiracy theorist who likes computer games, not to mention a moonlighting mobster who can’t handle his own wife and a mob boss who wants his hits videotaped for the Internet—in what should be a page turning laugh riot.
And it does deliver laughs, just not as many and as often as this reader would have liked. There are some funny one-liners; there is some entertaining word play, and there are some humorous incidents just neither as often, nor as hilarious as you would expect from the book’s jacket hype. For example, the mobster is head of the Maraschino family, and the other families won’t let them change their name. Brad is given a new last name in the witness protection program—Pitt.
Characters, for the most part, are one dimensional and lack the emotional depth that would invest the reader their fates. But I would doubt that Nelms is much concerned with emotional depth. They are meant to be cartoonish, and they are. It is the complexities of the plot and the clever way that everything is tied up by the end that the novel’s interest lies.
This is comic thriller lite: an amusing bauble that is enjoyable so long as you are willing to take it for what it is.
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