Treasure Coast, by Tom Kakonis*****

TreasureCoastHugely imaginative, terribly funny, and utterly tasteless, Kakonis delivers the chortles with Treasure Coast, a comic caper that juggles numerous entertaining characters with surprising deftness. Thank you twice, first to Brash Books and second to Net Galley, for providing me with the DRC to review. This title will be available September 14, 2015 to the book-buying public.

Our tale begins with Uncle Jim Merriman, a professional gambler who can’t even manage to break even these days, and “his numbnuts nephew”, Leon Cody, “…this kid with the crop of wild hair and Magoo glasses and dippy grin”, who is in debt to loan sharks. Leon’s mother has died and left not only her body, but also her foolish son, to Uncle Jim’s care and keeping. And of course we have the shark’s collection agents, Morris “Junior” Biggs and “your badass Hector Pasadena”.

On the other hand, we have Bryce Bott, hustler of gravestones that once purchased, will never arrive and “séances” delivered with the help of his hillbilly sidekick, Waneta Jean, who feigns nearness to death as a part of the séance scam.

Of course, ultimately, the characters wind up in a messy pile trying out-scam each other. “Circles inside of circles, games within games.”

But oh, that’s not enough! We also have trophy bride Billie Swett, who within my mental movie soon became Bernadette Peters, and her obnoxious, porcine, but almost infinitely wealthy spouse, Big Lonnie Swett. Eventually we add Cheetah, to whom Reverend Bott referred as “that other intrusive fellow”. Their roles in all of this, you will have to find out on your own.

“And how do you count the ways of weird?”

This was a story worthy of patience. There were so many nasty racist comments made about almost everyone you can think of; however, they are used within the context of Junior’s vapor-brained, “Aryan” sensibilities. There are several horribly ugly sexist remarks using the worst possible terms you can imagine, but again, it is only the bad guys that use them…and a reckoning comes down in a manner I found deeply satisfying.

To put it another way: we were halfway through before I was even sure I liked this novel, but once I was on board, I was in it for keeps, flagging one clever passage after another, most of which I can’t share here. I can share this YouTube promotional clip, though:

So although I was ultimately dumbstruck by the creativity with which Kakonis wove all of the complicated strands of this story together without dropping a single one, I also caution the reader. There are some really crass, fairly specific references to corpses in this book. If you have just lost someone and the wound is still raw, this is probably not the title with which you should escape. There are repeated references to the joys of rape. If you or someone near to you has been down that brutal path, maybe this is not your story, either. And one more caveat before I can go back to singing praises: if your mother tongue is not English, you may not want to embrace this challenging novel, which despite its Keystone Cops-like atmosphere requires exceedingly strong vocabulary skills. For those that enjoy word play, it’s a real treat, but any time you have to look up more than 3 words per page, the effort will outweigh the enjoyment you receive.

With the above caveats in mind, this new release comes highly recommended by this reviewer. The only real question is how you will wait until Monday to get your copy!

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