The Marriage of Figgalo
by Dr. Philip Emma

"'I lied to the cops and pretended to be the homeowner. Then I took Figgalo’s body to a shopping center and left it in his car,' I said."

Mick Maux, a retired scientist, lives with his wife, Carol, in Connecticut. Together, he and Carol work as detectives for the wealthier types around town and for those who, for one reason or another, prefer not to get the police involved. Carol is the beauty with common sense, while Mick has a particular knack for reading people and getting to the truth of the matter. One day, Mick meets with a possible client in Brooklyn and stops into a bar near the Brooklyn Bridge. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a strange house with a dead man on the couch next to him. When the police knock on the door, a panicked and confused Mick lies to them and later takes the body to a shopping mall where he abandons it in a car. What follows is a black comedy including murder, a cast of quirky over-the-top characters, and a case of mistaken identity.

Quick-witted and amusing, Mick’s character is reminiscent of some of the many roles actor John Cleese has portrayed. Like Cleese’s most memorable characters, Mick is neither intentionally cryptic nor trying to deliver comedic one-liners. The humor stems simply from who he is. Mick’s dialogue is tongue-in-cheek, and his overall demeanor is quirky and self-effacing. His first-person narrative is entertaining, even in the most serious times, like when he admits to the police that he accidentally murdered someone. His deadpan delivery is amusing throughout. Figgalo, the union boss and commissioner of transportation, is another peculiar character. At once dangerous and good-natured, Figgalo fakes his own death, leading to a web of trouble for the rest of the characters. The author gives Figgalo enough humanity to make the reader sympathetic toward him, even though the character is generally appalling. The rest of the secondary players are also well-drawn and entertaining, with unique voices and dialogue.

Mick’s first-person narrative works well to keep the reader interested in this fast-paced storyline. Mick is constantly mulling the forgotten night over and over again in his head, which succeeds in keeping the off-the-wall story straight for the reader. Emma switches from the first person point of view with Mick’s character to the third person point of view for the secondary ones. This technique allows the reader to stay engaged throughout the novel. The dialogue is strong and clever, and Emma keeps the voices believable, even in the chaos of events. The author gives a title to each chapter, which hints at what’s to come in this whodunnit murder mystery. Emma includes footnotes in the novel, usually involving further information about a character’s name or translations of words in French or Latin. The author also includes diagrams and graphs. While these are unconventional elements not normally seen in fiction, they work to entertain the reader further. Overall, this is a light-hearted black comedy with a cast of peculiar characters and a bizarre plotline full of mistaken identity and hilarious wrong turns. Fans of whodunnits and unconventional murder mysteries will be very entertained.

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