REVIEW: Murder Boy

Murder Boy by Bryon Quertermous
Polis Books (256 pages)
March 31, 2015

Dominick Prince is in a bit of a bind. Unless his advisor, Parker Farmington, signs off on his thesis, Dominick can’t graduate, and if he doesn't graduate, he can’t accept the teaching fellowship he has lined up in New York. Mind you, Farmington has already rejected said thesis three times and Dominick has little hope he’ll do an about-face without encouragement, so Dominick does what any desperate and delusional crime writer would do: he hatches a plot to kidnap Farmington and forcibly secure his approval. What could possibly go wrong?

Welcome to the literary rock-tumbler that is Bryon Quertermous’ mind. One part manic and one part meta, MURDER BOY is as much a meditation on love, loss, dashed hopes and second chances as it is a crime-filled, gonzo-pulp fever dream fueled by booze and bodily fluids.

The book’s narrative style is idiosyncratic yet engaging, and the same could be said of its protagonist; from page one it’s clear that Dominick is both screwed and screwy, and yet still you can’t help but root for his success (albeit from a safe distance, lest his misfortune be contagious). The pace is breathless. The plot has more twists and turns than a carnival ride. The cast is a bizarrely charismatic crew of academics, thugs, and sociopaths (though you can never tell at any given moment who falls into what category). And while the tone is bleak and the humor is dark, there's a kernel of optimism at MURDER BOY's core.

By the time you reach the final page you may not know which end is up, but that doesn't mean you won’t enjoy the ride; just channel your inner Dominick Prince and go with it.