Article first published as Book Review: Dirty Work by Michael Lamendola on Blogcritics.
By sheer accident I discovered Dirty Work – a funny, entertaining book by Michael Lamendola. After leafing through creations of mediocrities, whose fame was overinflated by marketers of the big publishers, it was refreshing to read this suspenseful crime novel. I know only a handful of thrillers whose humour makes me laugh out loud. Perhaps because suspense and humour are two distinctly different genres, they are commonly perceived as incompatible. But in Dirty Work these two genres seamlessly merge into one on every page. The humour of the story is not in the action – which by the way is very intense – but rather in the way it is told. The main characters are two losers: drunks, good for nothing, unable or unwilling to make plans even for the next day. The protagonist is intelligent enough though to be aware of his and his friend’s worthlessness. He begins the story by introducing himself with a self-depreciating remark:
“I am four glasses into my second glass of bourbon, weary from a day of doing nothing, and drunk as hell. I suppose I’m celebrating. For one, I’ve gone a day without drinking. For another, I’ve actually remembered to bring money to the bar. Nodding my head in self approval, I finish the current task at hand. ‘I think I deserve another,’ I say to myself, as a woman might decide to have a piece of pie after her salad and water.”
Deserve, right? The gangsters give him a nickname, Pissy, alluding to his weakness of character. He introduces his best friend with the same sarcasm and contempt:
“Sal is like one of those big damn dogs. I never knew the name, but they walk around wigging their tails and knocking shit over, oblivious that they weigh two hundred pounds…that, and the inability, or lack of interest, in controlling his farts is what reminds me of a large dog. Oh, and he is hairy…but I digress.”
For good measure, Sal has just finished a private investigator course, and carries a gun: as we should expect, the weapon in the hands of a fool who thinks himself a sharp sleuth will create nothing but trouble. And it does. The two get in trouble immediately, as Pissy is robbed by gangsters. Sal is quick to shoot and Pissy gets a non-life threatening wound in his head during the skirmish. His sense of humour, though, does not leave him even in the emergency room, where his romance with a young and pretty female doctor starts. “’Hello Gentlemen,” she says, glancing at her clipboard, “which one of you has the hole in his head?” The erotic scene between Pissy and the doctor is charming, but is still connected to the funny spirit of the story: “Looking up, I silently thank God for this evening of pleasure amongst all the bull shit He’s serving me lately.” Even the sexy scene of undressing has its humorous moment, when the doctor notices his gun: “You’ve had a gun in your pants this whole time? I thought not wearing underwear was hot, but that’s gotta top it.” Sometimes the story has a bizarre twist; however, even then it is believable and makes you wonder what is going to happen next. There is blood, car racing, and other spicy ingredients, where the two fools discover their guts and smarts, which helps them out of problematic situations, but, of course, their foolishness ends up putting them into more trouble. The story ends on an optimistic note. Perhaps the characters gain some wisdom from their terrible experience, and they deserve a brief break before their life starts on a different footing.
I give this novel 4 stars.