Sunday, April 20, 2008
Reviewing: "Some Like It Hot-Buttered" by Jeffrey Cohen
Having a patron die in your theater isn't a good thing especially if all you show are comedy films. It isn't like the movie scared the patron to death. Having a patron die because the popcorn was poisoned is worse. For Mr. Elliot Freed, the death of Mr. Vincent Ansella is a shock. After all, Mr. Ansella, who had occupied seat 18 of row S, is his first dead customer. He isn't quite sure how to react.
A fairly common malady in his life. Thanks to a novel that did okay and was successfully butchered into something that doesn't remotely resemble his book by Hollywood, Eliot Freed has a bit of money and no desire to ever write anything again. He has no marriage either though he does have a somewhat civil relationship with his ex, Sharon. They have lunch once a week. Then there are the monthly alimony checks he gets from her as well as the way he still feels when he looks at her.
While he doesn't have a car and instead rides a bike, he does have a struggling theater that has few customers. Freed owns the former "Rialto" with all its problems and has renamed it "Comedy Tonight." He shows a comedy double feature consisting of a one current film and an older title. Despite the efforts of "Young Frankenstein" and "Count Bubba, Down-Home Vampire," Mr. Ansella died and that isn't going to help ticket sales.
Neither is the fact that the local police have to close his theater because it is now a crime scene. Getting it back open on a steady basis isn't going to be helped by the fact that the police soon discover that he has a pirating operation going on out of the basement. It would be easy to blame his suddenly missing employee for everything that has happened and something the local police seem perfectly willing to do. Freed is sure that the employee, a film major at Rutgers, had nothing to do with any of it and sets out to prove his innocence and save his theater. Bumming a car when he needs one, Freed begins digging into the case despite being warned off by everyone involved.
It would be easy to compare this novel to the Aaron Tucker series and find it wanting. The humor of the parental dynamic as well as Tucker's often strange adventures drives that series and that sort of thing isn't present at all. Freed has no kids and doesn't have a dog. While Tucker gets involved in strange stuff or things go differently than expected, Freed is more of an everyday guy that just had something happen to him that has to be dealt as best as he can. Tucker is a writer and as such for those of us in the business at whatever level there is a resonance in his amusing tales of the world of publishing. Freed has walked away from writing and only briefly relates what happened to his novel and why he has given up writing. Not to mention the fact that the Aaron Tucker series often relies on the madcap in terms of humor and that certainly isn't the case here.
But, this book isn't an Aaron Tucker series novel and therefore should not be judged on that standard. This book has to be judged on its own merits as will the series to come. Comedically, while it does not have the explosive laughter moments for this reader, it does have a number of amusing chuckle type moments as Freed references cultural and movie items. Those that have a strong grounding in comedy films will get considerably more out of the novel than those who do not.
While the book is somewhat predictable with a large part of the resolution foreshadowed early on, there are enough twists and a couple of nice surprises to keep readers highly entertained. The book moves at a pretty good pace though it does stop occasionally for Freed to summarize in depth what has gone on and that seemed a bit redundant and excessive. Still, that is a minor quibble and did not really have a negative impact on the book as it falls under more of a personal preference category. Overall, the book is a pleasant read and a nice start to an interesting character and new series. Next up in the series is "It Happened One Knife" and is currently scheduled to be released in July.
Some Like It Hot-Buttered: A Double Feature Mystery
By Jeffrey Cohen
Berkley Prime Crime
ISBN # 978-0-425-21799-3
Kevin R. Tipple © 2008