Conspiracy and Mystery with a Healthy Dose of Sardonic Humor
Blending the knowing cynicism of Dashiell Hammett with the twists and turns of movies like “The Usual Suspects” is a tricky balance: too much cynicism can feel forced and a plot that winds too much may confuse the reader. In Mr. Blank, author Justin Robinson handles both admirably, creating a story that is never hard to follow but that forces the reader to pay attention. Its charm and pop culture references (some obscure) keep it from feeling too heavy, and the world-weary humor of its first person narrative give it an intimacy and immediacy that make it absorbing from the first chapter.
Set in the gritty underworld of Los Angeles, Mr. Blank inhabits a world of monsters (both real and figurative) and of secret societies that may be figments of the narrator’s imagination…or are they? The entire novel has a fun, breezy air combined with a story that takes the reader on a series of ups and downs and constant surprises that are in turns frightening and hilarious. Nothing is as it seems and fanciful conspiracy theories that cannot possibly be true turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Absorbing seems too small a word to describe the various characters and plot twists in Mr. Blank. When the seemingly innocuous Blank is almost murdered, he sets out to figure out who is behind the attempt, and why someone wants him dead. What follows is a funny, knowing and thoroughly engrossing romp through the darker side of Los Angeles that, once started, it hard to put down. One suspects that a familiarity with southern California would make this book even more consuming, but even if you’ve never set foot in L.A., if you enjoy being challenged, surprised and even tested by a book where you never see the next turn in the road coming, you will find this mystery/comedy entrancing.
About the Author
A native of Los Angeles, Justin Robinson splits his time between editing comic books, writing prose and wondering what that disgusting smell is. Degrees in Anthropology and History prepared him for unemployment, but an obsession with horror fiction and a laundry list of phobias provided a more attractive option.