With a singularly playful narrative style, part hardboiled detective and part stand-up act (“What's the difference between a golf ball and a Yugo? You can drive the golf ball 200 yards”) Hanlon delves into the chimerical mind of “super-sleuth” Mars. Mars works tirelessly to become the hero worthy of a detective novel, but, at the same time, he’s often entirely deluded. Mars breaks the fourth wall of the narrative to speak directly to readers about the novel’s progress, his confusion, and his woes while also explaining these same things to his characters. Though the reader knows that Mars’s perception of reality is questionable, some interactions and thoughts still prove mind-bending--and occasionally tough to follow, with moments where it’s unclear what’s literally happening and what’s in his head.
The plot is truly whimsical: Hanlon himself makes a cameo from writer’s prison, Steven Seagal films are literal bombs, and John Travolta is a champion snorkeler and air guitarist. Some metafictional conceits, in this case an actual book-within-a-book, might throw off some readers, but with persistence, those open to a dada mystery will find Mars’s friends, imagination, and world utterly hilarious. Hanlon’s humor shines bright and will leave fans of such madness wanting more.
Takeaway: This mind-bending detective comedy delves into playful metafiction as a sleuth investigates the case of the missing gazebos.
Great for fans of: John Swartzwelder, Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A