(Reviewed by JD Jung)
Finally, a novel that encompasses what I enjoy most in a read…
“If we can get the news stations interested, maybe we could find something that would lead to the closing down of a prostitution ring and we could all get medals.”
Coroner Billy Rabino desperately sought fame and would stop at nothing to get it. He would order long investigations on simple death cases, like a heart attack, hoping to uncover a murder. He loved to speak in front of the press and fabricate events that preceded the death with such explicit detail. This behavior accomplished nothing except to alienate the police department, drain resources and force Billy’s credibility and status to sink even further.
Billy became the coroner Hokum, a small southern town, because he was the only one who applied for the job. His lack of social skills and dull personality went well with the stereotype. However his mood could immediately turn nasty and dark, usually under the influence of cocaine or while he was nursing a bad hangover. He often visited his philosophical drug dealer for Diazepam which he needed in order to cope with everyday life. Asian porn seemed to help also.
Other cases that impeded his “continual attempts at greatness” were those involving the living and they wouldn’t go away. A Polish immigrant who was issued a death certificate and lost everything couldn’t get Billy to reverse it. A distraught husband who thought that his family died in a car crash– though they only suffered minor injuries– demanded that Billy show him their graves. A young woman who attempted suicide refused to leave Billy alone as she believed that he was her savior. These were just a few thorns in Billy’s side which he refused to deal with. Unbeknownst to our narcissistic coroner, there was an actual case that could give him glory, if he would just get his ego out of the way.
The Jolly Coroner uses dry, sordid humor with decadent characters and weaves it into an offbeat suspense story.
When I began reading this novel, I thought that it was a series of short stories. In fact, I thought that an early seemingly unrelated chapter was simply a riveting short story. However that was not the case. It was this structure that enhanced the overall plot.
Reads like The Jolly Coroner are so hard to find, and I hope to read more from this author.