The Screaming Buddha

Robert J. Bowman, Author
Robert J. Bowman, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (242p) ISBN 978-0-312-11056-7
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This spotty work, not as funny as it tries to be, features a wily opportunist named Jack Squire who cruises the streets of San Francisco in a Checker cab, on the lookout less for passengers than for a free lunch. Armed with a good suit, several license plates and a slew of fake IDs, he has a bunch of chronically deadbeat pals, a pretty parole officer and a pushy girlfriend with a foul mouth. His latest find is an abandoned container filled with toy noisemaking Buddhas, but he has trouble finding buyers. Soon a government agent is on his tail. When they meet for a talk, Jack is knocked cold and the agent, who appears to be working the case on a freelance basis, is hung up like meat on a hook. Jack decides to trace the Buddha shipment through a tangle of export agents and lawyers, but by then many readers will have given up the chase. Bowman demonstrates a talent for storytelling, and he gets off some good lines, but it's hard to care much about Jack, a smart-mouthed freeloader who tells too many bad jokes. (July)
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