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by Marc Lecard
St Martin's Minotaur, March 2007
352 pages
ISBN: 0312360215

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Meet Johnnie LoDuco. Johnnie is quite possibly the world's biggest screw-up. He's been in and out of jail, has never held a job other than writing pornographic novels, and has just fished his best friend's head out of the Long Island Sound. If there is any way to make the situation worse, Johnnie is sure to come up with it.

The thing about Johnnie is, he means well. He really does. He can't help being such a screw-up. And you can't help but like him.

Johnnie's friend Vinnie Vincent McCloskey-Schmidt has devised a fool-proof scheme to make himself, his cold but sexy girlfriend, Dr Jennifer Smeals, and Johnnie, his well-intentioned but ill-fated friend, filthy rich. All they have to do is get to Paraguay, and they'll be set for life.

Vinnie and Jennifer head for the airport with the plan that Vinnie will send for Johnnie when everything is in place. All Johnnie has to do is keep out of the clutches of Stosh Budjynski, the bounty hunter who wants to haul him in for skipping out on the bond from his most recent arrest for breaking and entering. Johnnie does manage to lie low for a few days, until he is overcome by cabin fever and decides to go fishing.

Unfortunately, Johnnie's about as bright as a two-watt bulb, and sometimes the light's a little slow coming on. When he fishes up Vinnie's head, instead of taking it to the police, knowing it would be difficult at best to explain why he skipped his bond and disappeared not to mention his association with the disembodied head of his best friend he stores the head in his landlord's freezer until he can figure out what to do with it.

True to Johnnie's natural lack of luck, however, things go understandably from bad to worse to disastrous. Johnnie spends most of his time on the run, hiding from the police and a few other notable nasties who'd like to get their hands on the head and then dispose of Johnnie in any unceremonious fashion they can come up with. With Budjynski the burly bounty hunter and an inquisitive homicide detective getting too close for comfort, Johnnie is just about at his wit's end which isn't, of course, much of a journey.

But Johnnie's luck takes a turn for the better when he meets first Patrice Mooney, an adult-video store clerk with a rebellious streak and a computer hacker's touch, then PI Bogdan O'Reilly, who's hiding a secret that will make Johnnie realize he might be the sane one, after all. With their help, Johnnie learns that his luck hasn't quite run out completely, and the people who are after him are up against a force more formidable than they bargained for.

Lecard's debut is wickedly funny dark and a tad gruesome but told with a lighthearted spin of wit and wisdom (or lack of it) that only someone as seriously screwed up as Johnnie LoDuco can deliver. Every twist leads to another, each one more unpredictable than the last, and the cast of memorable characters richly drawn and nicely diverse provide a solid backdrop for this fast-paced, entertaining story.

Reviewed by J. B. Thompson, March 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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