cover image Death Puppet

Death Puppet

Jim Nisbet. Black Lizard Books, $16.95 (231pp) ISBN 978-0-88739-136-1

In this somewhat uneven debut, Nesbit attempts to combine the snap of the hardboiled mystery with the introspection of a more consciously literary vein. At the novel's start, Tucker Harris, a Vietnam vet whose diet seems to consist of nothing but bennies and hard booze, is making his moves on the attractive yet solitary Mattie Brooke, the waitress at the Dip Cafe. After a satisfying evening of love-making--Mattie even sacrifices her two fighting fish to the cause--Harris disappears, leaving only a poem by Verlaine, written out on paper towel, and a sock to mark his passing. The next morning, two strangers, Eddie and Scott, appear at the cafe, asking for Mattie's sometime lover Jedidiah Dowd, whose mother's letters Mattie longs to publish. Mattie rides with the two men out to Dowd's farm, where she discovers not only that her friend has been setting up drug distribution networks, but also that Tucker Harris is somehow involved. While the action sequences are competently drawn, the plotting is unimpressive and the characterizations two-dimensional. The best writing occurs when Nesbit describes the little computer-punching devil living inside Harris's head: ``He looked almost cute, in a lurid way, Bambi in drag.'' In the main, however, Nesbit attempts to weave too many threads into too thin a fabric. (May)