Pros: Extremely quirky; cartoony; entertaining; bizarre cast of characters
Cons: Cartoony; some of the twists were fairly obvious
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of the authors.
Well I have to admit, Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner’s A Corpse in the Soup is definitely a different sort of mystery from the ones I’m used to reading! Godiva and Goldie, twins living in LA and Alaska, come from a family of Vaudeville magicians. Godiva lives with their semi-senile mother, Flossie, and uncle Sterling. Trouble begins when Godiva invites Goldie’s sous-chef daughter, Chili, down to LA to attend a taping of a well-loved cooking show headlined by the sexy Caesar Romano. The evening takes a turn for the bizarre, however, when Godiva gets food-poisoning and nearly dies. Goldie comes down to help out, Chili gets a new job as Caesar’s helper when his assistant Candy quits, and Godiva and Caesar seem to have quite a thing for one another.
The Silver Sisters decide to poke their noses into who might be sabotaging Romano’s show, but when one of their chief suspects dies, things take a turn for the dangerous. Now they’re trying to prove Romano’s innocence, help out some new friends, keep up with Godiva’s newspaper advice column, and avoid getting killed or hurt while poking into things!
The style is utterly bizarre, and I think it’s one of those things that either you’ll enjoy or you won’t. For instance, the dueling chefs heading for a cooking competition are outrageously strange. One is a Jewish sushi chef; another is a Polish Cajun chef; and a third is best known for doing aerobics using raw chicken legs as dumbbells while cooking:
All week long non-stop crowds gathered around a large troupe of Matsumoto look-alikes performing on the Third Street Promenade. Dressed in full karate regalia, including Matusmoto’s signature gold yarmulke and prayer shawl adorned with the rising sun, they brandished cooking utensils and nunchucks as they performed intricate martial arts movements in perfect time with the background music of “Hava Nagila.”
It’s a sort of wacky description that is at the same time very unique and yet so utterly outside the norm as to be rather difficult to visualize. The breakneck pace of the story struck me as similar to that of watching a cartoon—everything’s at full volume, color and velocity, and utterly bizarre things are thrown out at the reader with hardly a jot of explanation, such as the twins’ occasional esp-linked thoughts, the apparent talking dog (sort of), and so on. The similar names drove me a bit crazy: Red and Rudy; Candy, Crystal and Chili; Godiva and Goldie… my head was positively swimming after a while, but that too fits the style and flavor of a cartoon. It also seemed to take the main characters a little time to pick up on some plot threads and twists that seemed a bit obvious.
In essence, this really is a cartoon version of a mystery, but aimed at adults—all of the above would seem perfectly in place if I was watching a cartoon, and I almost expect to see the pages decorated with black-and-white cartoon-style drawings of the characters and their capers. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s stylish and entertaining. It’s silly and diverting. But it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I think the characters could seem either charming and fun or annoying and silly depending on your take on the style. I more or less started from the latter and drifted toward the former during my read; overall I’d have to say that this isn’t my style of mystery, but that it certainly has its charms.
Standard age level summation: There’s a tiny bit of blood and a few swear words, but this isn’t a graphically violent story.