Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Review of The Rabbit Factory

The Rabbit Factory
(MacAdam Cage: 2006) by Marshall Karp, is a mystery that starts out with a bang, but ends up being dragged down by its own weight.
The 600-plus page novel introduces LAPD homicide cops Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs. Lomax, the narrator, is grieving over is dead wife and trying to move on with his life, while Biggs, who wants to be a stand-up comic, serves to lighten the mood. They're both likable, but not too original characters, who go on a roller coaster ride after a man in a rabbit costume gets garroted at Familyland, a gigantic amusement park where people from all over the world come to be surrounded by the cartoon creations of Dean Lamaar.
Karp does an admirable job with the main plot, which has Lomax and Biggs trying to find out who wants to destroy the Lamaar Corporation. Bodies pile up, corporate types try to protect the company while making life difficult for Lomax and Biggs, and the duo stumbles down plenty of blind alleys in their search for the villain.
The two subplots are a different story. The first, which is romantic, has Lomax reading letters his dead wife wrote to him before she died, while dealing with his feelings for another woman. The second one involves Lomax's brother Frankie, who has a gambling problem. The romantic interludes help round out Lomax, and prevent the character from becoming a caricature, but they tend to be too long., especially the three full letters from Lomax's dead wife that made it into the final draft. The Frankie subplot is uneventful. No doubt Karp introduced Frankie because he will be a recurring character in other Lomax and Biggs novels, but the plot complications he caused in this book get solved with minimal fuss and minimal suspense. The book would have moved along faster without it, and there is no hard and fast rule that the first novel in a series has to introduce every character.
In the end, it is Karp's light prose and dark sense of humor that make the overall experience worthwhile. As previously mentioned, the book opens with a man in a large rabbit costume getting garroted. It's a funny image, if you like that sort of humor, and while the book is long, the prose isn't turgid. It isn't Les Miserables. Now there was a detective story that really needed an editor.

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