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Book Review: Cadaver Blues

CadaverBlues-e1352912637451When the alluring Mindy Eider walks in with a foreclosure notice addressed to her elderly Uncle Gunnar, Phouc Goldberg – debt man and cynic extraordinaire – initially sees her as little more than a source for this month’s rent payment.

Initially. But not for long.

Beguiled by Mindy’s charm and innocence, Phuoc finds himself playing detective. The game’s afoot, and it’s a dangerous game – and Phuoc realizes he won’t end it looking for debt relief, but for cadavers.

Cadaver Blues is the first book I’ve read by J.E. Fishman, and it was both better and worse than I had hoped. But before I go any further, let’s clear something up: Phuoc’s name is pronounced “fook”. He would want you to know that.

If you want to work with me, then spell my name right and learn to pronounce it. Easy to oblige if you’re called George Washington, I admit, and not so easy when it’s Phuoc Goldberg. (p. 17)

Without a doubt, the best thing about this book is the writing. Because the writing is flippin’ fantastic. Deft, fluent, crisp, and relentlessly entertaining, it fits the story and the characters as snugly as a glove. And speaking of characters, Fishman has quite the hero in Phuoc Goldberg – a guy who, for all his cynicism, still manages to be endearing. He has flaws (plenty of them), but at the end of the day, you can’t help but admire his gutsy willingness to go after the bad guys, regardless of the consequences.

Cadaver Blues is throughly modern, but I’ll be darned if it didn’t feel like a noir mystery. It has snappy dialogue by the bucket-loads, a bored, cynical, world-weary protagonist, a beautiful dame, and plenty of moments where “everything is not as it seems.” All this put me in mind of Dashiell Hammett. Which is utterly cool, if you ask me.

Too bad I can’t recommend it.

Language isn’t much of an issue in Cadaver Blues, but unnecessary sexual content is. Pervasive crass dialogue, tasteless anatomical references, and a casual sex scene carry this book across the line of acceptable entertainment into the realm of Just Plain Smut.

Fishman has the talent, but sometimes knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to put in. Had he taken us for ride without dragging along the gratuitous sexual baggage, I would happily give the story thumbs up. As things stand, however, that won’t be happening. Maybe Fishman’s next book will show more discernment in this area.

(I received this book for free in exchange for a review.
I was not required to write a positive review.)