Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski
Three words: Noir, Detective, Zombie. ‘Nuff said. I lied, I’m going to say more: Dark Humor, 1930s, Voodoo, Camp, Fun – Braineater Jones.
Publisher’s Description: Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.
But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd.
As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism.
Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity…
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
When the author first contacted me to gauge my interest in reviewing Braineater Jones two things came to mind. One, that Steve Kozeniweksi has a thing for titles. Other titles of his include Billy and the Cloneasaurus and The Ghoul Archipelago. Come on! I want to read those based on title alone. Two, how could I pass on a Noir detective novel where the detective was a zombie. The answer was: I couldn’t. Also, I didn’t!
The Good: This book is chock full of classic 1930s clichés and phrases. They’re given an undead twist and you can tell the author had a lot of fun going overboard to remind you that the ride you’re on is completely absurd. Our Detective is a newly-dead zombie who has no idea who he is. As such, he has adopted the name Braineater Jones, and is understandably completely clueless about how undead society works. This leads to some humorous encounters and conversations during his investigations. I found the zombie brothel to be one of the most amusing and interesting locations on his journeys. I may have been able to think up a zombie brothel had I tried to write this story, but I wouldn’t have thought to take it in the same direction that Kozeniewski did and I mean that as a compliment. It was funny. Dark, but funny.
The author is able to support his wackiness by keeping us focused on Jones at all times. This isn’t the type of novel that bounces between multiple characters, fleshing out backstories and building a world. No, this is a zombie who wakes up, decides to be a detective, and wings it from then on.
The Bad: This book is chock full of classic 1930s clichés and phrases. This can be just as annoying as it is fun. At times, it was a bit much for me. Not enough to ruin the experience, but I wanted to point it out here for those who may find it bothersome. His side-kick, a decapitated head in a jar, seemed to act a tad out of character at times as well.
If you’re looking for a novel that builds a solidly built world filled with characters rich in back story, this is not the novel for you.
The Conclusion: There aren’t many books I can compare this to, simply due to the absurdity of its execution. If you love the 1930s, noir films, detective stories, and zombies then this is the book for you. If on the other hand you don’t enjoy those things, well… … … I don’t know where I was going with that. I had fun with this book.
If you like this book…