Pelikan

David Martin, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-684-85348-2
A comic romp through the dark underbelly of New Orleans in Martin's latest (after Tap Tap) begins when protagonist Charlie Curtis is instructed by his dying father to check up on the ""Pelikan,"" the French Quarter's notorious criminal kingpin who is also Charlie's uncle. Charlie's journey quickly turns him into a murder suspect when an ""associate"" of his uncle is murdered by a naked, tattooed young blonde who disappears from the crime scene, leaving Charlie literally holding the smoking gun. Charlie is quickly picked up and worked over by a strange police detective named Mean Gene Renfrone, who is actually working for one of the Pelikan's rivals, Philippe Gallier, a corrupt Creole, in an ongoing local underworld war. When the police put the squeeze on Charlie in the murder investigation, the Pelikan hires an attorney for him who turns out to be Amanda, the old flame Charlie never forgot, who jilted him 12 years ago to become the Pelikan's lover. As Charlie is bounced back and forth between the Pelikan, Gallier and the police, he learns that a pivotal element in the ongoing battle is a massive heist the Pelikan has planned at a New Orleans repository, a robbery that takes place sooner than expected, rescheduled to coincide with the convenient appearance of a hurricane that will keep police occupied elsewhere. The various story lines are mostly a setup for Lozell's humorous take on a bizarre New Orleans, where women wear fishhooks through their lower lips to discourage blow jobs and a rat eats out of a young punk's mouth. Though startling and fresh at first, the shocks dazzle less as the novel progresses and the plot loses steam, fizzling out entirely during an unsatisfying, anticlimactic final robbery scene. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1999
Release date: 11/01/1999
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