I knew that I would like this novel from the very first line: “It was harder to sing with the vampire teeth than I thought it would be.” This is a very evocative image, especially given the number of television shows and movies that have featured vampires in the last decade. I often wondered how the actors/actresses managed to talk with a mouth full of prosthetic fangs without mumbling or lisping (which probably tells you quite a bit about me and what I think about when watching movies!) To be able to sing in a live theater production with those fangs—well, that would be a feat in itself.
Workman’s Complication, though, is not about singing vampires. The novel centers around Kate, a struggling actress who works (and has worked) a multitude of other jobs in order to pay the bills. Kate learns that her father, Jimmy, has been murdered. As a working private investigator, it is not unexpected, but Kate does need time to morn his passing.
Yet Kate is not given that time. During the reading of the will, Kate learns that she has inherited her father’s business, which boils down to a few possessions in a box. Being Irish, she holds a wake to bury both her father and her own Private Investigator’s license (which she only held to help out her father) when a client appears. Jimmy’s lawyer (who is also his friend) directed the man to approach Kate for a case. The burial of her license is aborted when Kate takes the job and decides to investigate her father’s death as well. Complications then ensue that manage not only to pull in Kate, but also her son, Matthew, who is a District Attorney.
Although this surface description does not sound amusing, Rich Leder does a wonderful job at keeping the tone light. The humor comes from the writing—the subtle way the sentences are crafted—and from the characters themselves.
Look at the following quotation—
“But the acting career path I was planning took a sharp left turn when I got pregnant at sixteen and gave birth to a boy, Matthew, exactly on my seventeenth birthday. The young man who assisted in getting me pregnant left immediately for San Francisco to be, among other things, gay.”
The word choice, the dramatic pause from the commas, the words inserted to interrupt the flow of the sentence, all add to the dry wit of the passage. It will bring a smile to the face of a reader who appreciates this type of humor.
The characters are all wonderful and dysfunctional in their own unique ways. For example, all of Kate’s neighbors attended the wake even though they did not know Jimmy and then negotiated with the client for Kate while toasting her father.
“We’re negotiating. It’s what your old man would’ve done,” Ray said.
“He would’ve driven a hard bargain, Kate,” Edie said.
“To Jimmy,” Warren said. “He never settled.”
“To Jimmy,” everyone said and threw their shots down.
None of these people knew my father. They had no idea whatsoever whether or not he would have settled. But it was a toast. I drank too and refilled the Dixie cups.
**Really Serious MAJOR Spoilers AHEAD**
You have been warned!
I like the fact that Leder brings the book full circle at the end. It begins in the theater with singing vampires and ends the same way. Kate has a quiet moment with her son discussing the play:
I turned to Matthew and said, “Did you really like it?”
“Yes, Mom, it was fun. But it was also hard to follow, and there were oceans of blood. I mean really a lot. I’m talking about crazy blood.”
“It was hot up there, and I was singing and dancing and killing half the neighborhood. I got very thirsty.”
We both laughed, and then I shrugged and said, “It’s off-off-off- off Broadway. We make up for our shortcomings by bleeding profusely.”
I will need to post “We make up for our shortcomings by bleeding profusely” somewhere in my office. As a motivational phrase, it works on so many levels. It is also a great line for Kate who made up for her own shortcomings as a P.I. by bleeding, both metaphorically and physically, when solving her first case.
Workman’s Complication, by Rich Leder is a novel I would recommend to any adult reader who likes a good mystery with a touch of dry wit. (I actually did recommend it to one of my friends last night.) I give it 5 stars. You can learn more about it at www.laughriotpress.com
Disclaimer—I received a copy of this book for a fair and timely review.