"Two homicide detectives stumble upon an alien plot in Kevin Buckley’s humorous novel, The Secret Sign of the Lizard People.
An aspiring model is murdered, and the LAPD’s greatest homicide detectives, Leafy and Beefy, are on the case. The clues lead them through the best and worst of California, from drought-dried sewers to a posh country club. They come to the realization that the model’s death is only the tip of an insidious iceberg. The closer Leafy and Beefy draw to solving the case, the closer they are to unmasking the greatest conspiracy in human history.
The narrative jumps straight into the action with the discovery of the model’s sensationalist demise. It starts off as a send-up of police procedurals, but becomes more and more absurd as it rolls toward its startling conclusion. The mystery unfurls at a good pace and demonstrates that Leafy and Beefy, regardless of whatever else can be said about them, are devoted and logical professionals. The reveal of the dead model’s true (in)significance is a nice twist, while the text’s variety of settings and suspects keeps it all interesting."
--Foreword Clarion Reviews
As they work the case, Beefy and Leafy entertain themselves with elaborate patter, their routines equal parts vaudeville and postmodern dada with thinly veiled references to current events (“If POTUS and FLOTUS went riding in a Lotus, would SCOTUS even notice?”). At times the protagonists (and the novelist) seem more invested in the chatter than the mystery. Though this novel is indisputably funny and boasts many smart observations and sharp lines, the narrative doesn’t invite much involvement, and readers may wonder how literally to take the funny business.
Buckley’s emphasis on the gag above all else limits the material’s urgency, especially when Beefy and Leafy stop misunderstanding each other and instead seem to be improvising routines to amuse themselves. Still, there’s no question that Buckley has serious comedy chops and the doggedness to hustle through several neighborhoods in order to chase down a punch line. Witticism aficionados and longtime fans of crime fiction will happily ride along with these crack-up cops as they spar, snicker, and incidentally solve a mystery.
Takeaway: This hilarious parody of L.A. noir will delight mystery fans who enjoy discursive comedy and poking fun at the genre they love.
Great for fans of Mel Gilden’s Zoot Marlowe series, John Swartzwelder’s Frank Burly novels.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A