"Sometimes homicide can be a lot of fun," reflects LAPD homicide
detective Mike Lomax, on the way to investigate the murder that
opens Marshall Karp's stellar debut novel, THE RABBIT FACTORY. And
thanks to the wickedly funny pen of Karp, Lomax has gotten it just
about right. Even when things look bleakest for Lomax and his
partner Terry Biggs, Karp's satirical outlook and spot-on dialogue
prevent this mystery from taking itself too seriously.
At the novel's opening, Lomax and Biggs are on their way to Lamaar
Studio's Familyland, a Burbank amusement park that's a blatant
rip-off of Disneyland. Eddie Elkins, the man behind the mask of
Rambunctious Rabbit, the theme park's mascot (and the Lamaar
corporation's signature character) has been strangled in the park's
underbelly while sneaking a smoke. When a background check reveals
that Elkins is a pedophile and sex offender, the case seems to
point to one of Elkins's former victims or their families. But when
more and more individuals with ties to Lamaar show up dead, Lomax
and Biggs realize there's a much bigger story going on here.
The detectives' job is made much more difficult by Lamaar's
executives, including the extremely annoying but undeniably sexy
Director of Corporate Communications, who are determined to keep
the murders under wraps. Then there's Lamaar's powerful CEO Ike
Rose, who may have his own agenda; the mayor of Los Angeles and the
governor of California, who have their own political axes to grind;
and the FBI, who can't wait to prove that the LAPD is a bunch of
buffoons when they finally get a piece of the action. Not to
mention, the killer (or killers?) seems to have the assistance of
an international team of assassins, maybe even the Mob. It's a
wonder that Lomax is able to make any headway at all.
In the meantime, Lomax is struggling with his own personal life.
He's still mourning the loss of his beloved wife to cancer, and
he's tormented by his love-hate relationship with his dad, who's
determined to put him back in the saddle again. When Lomax's
mixed-up younger brother shows up, claiming there's a contract out
on his life, Lomax's personal life threatens to eclipse even the
tragedies besetting the Lamaar corporation.
Marshall Karp is no stranger to Hollywood --- his credits include
screenwriting and advertising. It's no surprise, then, that THE
RABBIT FACTORY's satirical take on the Los Angeles lifestyle,
Hollywood politics, and big corporate culture seems spot on. With
its show business setting and big money players, THE RABBIT FACTORY
has more than its share of sex, drugs and corruption. What's more
surprising is that this quirky, off-kilter novel also has a really
big heart. Even amidst all the wisecracks and smart-aleck remarks
traded by Lomax and his partner, the book never sinks to the level
of pure slapstick. It still has an emotional core that will make
readers care about these tough but vulnerable crime fighters and
keep them hoping for a sequel.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 23, 2011