Stephen Dobyns—whom Stephen King has described as "the best of the best"—is back with a comic suspense novel about a small-time con operation, a pair of combative detectives, and the pride, revenge, and deception that guide us all. Richard Russo meets Elmore Leonard.
In the seaport town of New London, Connecticut, newcomer Connor Raposo has just witnessed a gruesome motorcycle accident on Bank Street. At least he thinks it was an accident. A man sliced in half by a reversing dump truck could only be an accident, right?
But these days, Connor can’t be sure of anything—his entire line of work is based on games of artful deception. His days at Bounty, Inc., are spent soliciting funds for improbable, bogus charities; its last venture was Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction, Inc. The new scam is Prom Queens Anonymous, Inc., dedicated to helping former high school celebs transition to humdrum daily grown-up lives; Connor’s target is Angelina Rossi—Pumpkin Queen of 1985, proud beagle owner, and ex-wife of a man named Fat Bob.
Meanwhile, Manny Streeter and Benny Vikström are the local detectives assigned to the Bank Street motorcycle wreck, and despite their shared interest of proving each other wrong, the two eventually reach the same conclusion: This death by Harley was Murder One, pure and simple. As the detectives begin asking their questions around town, Connor is looking for similar answers that will determine whether he lives or dies. Among them: Who is Fat Bob, and is he actually dead?
Sharply written and entertainingly absurd, Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? is packed with Stephen Dobyns’s trademark characters—whimsical, neurotic, puzzling yet familiar, and impossible to pin down. Dobyns again proves why he is an American master of the suspenseful, all-too-human land of the absurd.
Gold Dagger Award finalist Dobyns's genius for dark comedy makes this intricate crime novel a triumph that will appeal to Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen fans. An arch, omniscient narrative voice draws you in, setting the stage for a grim death in New London, Conn. A dump truck backs onto the street just as a motorcycle rider passes by, cutting him in half. The identity of the victim and whether the incident was an accident are initially mysteries. The tragedy allows gradual introductions of an eccentric but plausible cast of characters, starting with Connor Raposo, a visitor from San Diego, Calif., who witnesses the accident. Others include police partners who have an antagonistic relationship and a group of con artists who bilk the gullible by soliciting charitable donations for organizations such as the Holy Sisters of the Blessed Little Feet and Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction. Dobyns (The Burn Palace) skillfully interweaves the various plot threads, such as the picaresque exploits of a homeless man named Fidget and threats to a resident suspected of being a federally protected witness. Frequent instances of wry humor and direct addresses to the reader are a plus.