Keith Hartman,
Gumshoe Gorilla
(Meisha Merlin, 2001)

In Gumshoe Gorilla, Keith Hartman continues his storyline set in future Atlanta (2025) about six months from the point The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse ended. Like the first novel, this one is set up in such a way that each chapter is told from the first-person point of view. What I find truly clever, however, is that there are about ten different characters who narrate this tale, which means the reader "sees" the story evolve through the eyes of those involved. Fortunately, the personalities are so distinct that you soon do not even need to read the chapter headings to know whose point of view you're experiencing at any given time.

Some of the storyline from the first novel is revisited in Gumshoe Gorilla. The Cherokee are still battling the United States in the World Court to uphold a 19th-century treaty granting them the northern half of Georgia. BNN -- the Baptist News Network -- is reeling after its owner, the charismatic Rev. and former Sen. Stonewall, was arrested and charged with murder. But, even split into warring factions, the Baptists are still a force to be reckoned with. Genetic testing for the gay gene has caused grief for many a person. And, even in an age where people are more connected than ever via electronics, there is still a need for good old detective work to solve a mystery or two.

Several familiar personalities return for a second visit with all their quirky character flaws intact. The analytical, homosexual, dry-witted gumshoe is still seeing visions and is heir-apparent for a recently deceased Cherokee shaman drag queen. His "psychic" partner might be insightful at times. Just don't piss her off by, say, cheating on her with several other women. She knows how to use food in ways that will mess up your life. The woman in black returns to kick more butt and keep the action going. She is almost as good a detective as the Gumshoe.

So. Who is new this time and what are the mysteries? Well, the main story centers around five brothers who were especially cloned by their mother to be some of the top-rated actors of their time. After all, with five look-a-likes, more film can be shot in a single day than with just one individual. Unfortunately, it seems like every family has a black sheep and this is true with these quintuplets. Oh, they might look the same on the outside, but their personalities and lifestyles are very different. But like close siblings, when the black sheep is being blackmailed, they will band together (and hire people) to find out what is going on.

A second mystery revolves around blackmail as well. Apparently, when the genetic test for the gay gene was developed at the turn of the century, many young homosexuals were sent off to little camps where they grew up in orphanage-type conditions. Now, what this has to do with the gumshoe's friend Daniel, a vampire sex cult, an organized group of male prostitutes and a variation of the Russian mob is a little more than I can get in to for this review. Suffice it to say that in just under 400 pages, Hartman manages to tie them all together in a way I wasn't expecting.

This book, like its predecessor, has a bit of an editing problem. Fortunately, unless you like nit-picking, it isn't enough to detract from the otherwise engaging plot twists.

If you enjoyed Hartman's first novel, then you will like Gumshoe Gorilla equally as well. The book is fast-paced and difficult to put down. The characters are all so bizarre that they are totally believable -- if that makes any sense. Hartman's wicked sense of humor is enough to keep readers chuckling as they unravel the various mysteries and discover how multiple threads link up in the end. Best of all, Hartman has the outline for a third book in the series already in place. Let's hope he can get it published before too long because I, for one, am eager to read it. To stay in tune with the progress of the third book, check out Hartman's website.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 16 March 2002

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