From Publishers Weekly
The book debut from the Get a Life
and Cabin Boy
star is billed as a parody, but this murder mystery wrapped in laughter is simply straight-up enjoyable. Jack the Jolly Thwacker is leaving dead bodies all over 1882 New York City. Chris Elliott, a modern-day researcher, is tracking the serial killer through time. Elliott's wry humor fastens on the burgeoning, Boss Tweedified city, giving it a hilarious and vividly imagined set of anachronistic technologies and accoutrements (New York's Mayor Teddy Roosevelt, who has mysteriously disappeared, has a navel piercing). The narrative leaps back and forth in time, as 1882 police chief Caleb Spencer chases the Thwacker through the streets, and Elliott, convinced the killer is from the 21st century, chases him through time. Elliott's ability to time travel is facilitated by Yoko Ono (don't ask) and a willing suspension of disbelief, but the results are very amusing (if often infantile in the style of There's Something About Mary
), with asides on every page that bring in everyone and everything from Typhoid Mary to Skyy Vodka. If Shroud
feels like an extended, Americanized Monty Python skit, it's also a rousing good yarn.
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Elliott is best known for his madcap appearances on Late Night with David Letterman
and his small but juicy roles in such films as Groundhog Day
. In his debut as a novelist, his veteran comedy-writer's skills come to the fore in a wacky murder mystery that sends up best-selling thrillers such as The Alienist
and The Da Vinci Code
. With all of New York City, circa 1882, as his playground, Jack the Jolly Thwacker is a demented serial killer with equally demented tactics. He dresses his victims in bizarre clothing and leaves behind poems taunting his pursuers. Hot on his trail are the city's police chief, an Evening Post
reporter, and mayor Teddy Roosevelt, who actually was police commissioner then. Somehow, after blundering into a time machine while researching the unsolved mystery, Elliott himself gets entangled in the chase, and the real identity of the Thwacker is revealed. The time-travel element nudges Elliott's spoof into sf, but that doesn't mean fans of historical crime fiction won't get their kicks. Carl HaysCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved