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Monday, May 23, 2011

Heads You Lose
Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
Putnam, 2011

Pot-growing siblings Paul and Lacey Hansen must investigate why the headless corpse of Lacey's ex-fiancé turned up on their property, in a metafictional mystery where the authors disagree as to how the story should progress, a contention that causes a higher body count, a host of quirky characters and more insanity than the Hansens can handle.

Once again Lisa Lutz totally cracked me up with this pseudo-mystery she cowrote with her ex-boyfriend, David Hayward. If you read any of her Spellman series then you know how laugh-out-loud funny her books are; this is no exception. Be prepared: this is not a normal novel!

It begins with a proposal that Lutz sends to Hayward regarding collaborating on a mystery. Her idea is they will each write alternating chapters and then comment on what each has written via footnotes. They agree they cannot alter anything the other has previously written. The result is an insanely funny story within a story that does not quite go where Lutz wants it to, but manages to entertain the reader despite the plot and character problems. The real fun here is the interaction between the collaborating (and I use that term loosely) authors, one of whom tries to control the other with hilarious results. She criticizes his use of big words and kills off his favorite character; he bristles at her superior attitude and brings the same character back to life in the next chapter. I was reading this in bed one night while my husband was sleeping and kept waking him up with my giggling and snorting.

I loved this book but have to admit to a few problems: it’s a bit disjointed because of the differing writing styles; the footnotes and emails are funny but interrupt the flow; and the story doesn’t really get developed in any meaningful way, but who cares? In the end those things don’t really matter as long as reading it was this much fun.


Other books by Lisa Lutz:
The Spellman Files (2007)
Curse of the Spellmans (2008)
Revenge of the Spellmans (2009)
The Spellmans Strike Again (2010)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue (2011)
A darkly comic tale set in the bathroom of an old house at dawn follows the experiences of a man whose attempt to relate how he came to suffer a grave injury is interrupted by a sequence of eight women suspects who convey respective stories in the literary styles of various historical periods.

Moo by Jane Smiley (1995)
In urgent need of funds, Moo University, a huge Midwestern agricultural college, and its male-dominated hierarchy search for a solution to their economic woes.

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon (2007)
In a world in which Alaska, rather than Israel, has become the homeland for the Jews following World War II, Detective Meyer Landsman and his half-Tlingit partner Berko investigate the death of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy.

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