“Book Review: Zither”
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
This zany, rollicking mystery adventure is as compelling as it is hilarious.
The game is afoot! When Mars Candiotti, terrible author and the “Best P.I. In The City” (according to his highly questionable hand-scrawled business card), takes on the case of Pappy’s missing gazebos, he’s baffled.
Not only is it incomprehensible why someone would steal a gaggle of gazebos, but there’s also the question of how. In Mars’ estimation, a thief would need upwards of 297.29 semi-trucks to cart off twenty acres of prime gazebos. And it seems that no one saw or heard a thing.
Giving up isn’t in Mars Candiotti’s nature, no matter how confounding the case may be. This book isn’t going to write itself after all, and who would read a detective novel if the detective didn’t solve anything? A peek into the back of the book tells Mars the major clues he’ll need to solve this case (in alphabetical order: Butterscotch, John Travolta, trombones, venetian blinds, and wind chimes).
Now, if he can avoid all the people who want to be included in his book, the imaginary Celeste and every vegetable that keeps popping up, he may be able to solve this thing. Save the gazebos, catch the criminal, and maybe even nab a date with the lovely librarian, Marian.
Zither is the first Mars Candiotti novel and offers a promising beginning. It’s engaging, funny, and very self-aware. This is metafiction at its finest. The humor is varied; slapstick, puntastic, shattering the fourth wall, and self-deprecating. It reminds me of the great old spoof movies like Men in Tights or Blazing Saddles. It’s well aware of its genre and uses the knowledge to full entertaining potential.
I love the characters in Zither, both the real ones and the imaginary ones. Though, at the end of the day, who can tell one from the other? There’s a fantastic dynamic between Mars and the other characters. Scenes between himself and Jeffrey Hanlon (the incarcerated prisoner in Zither and simultaneously author of Zither? Don’t look too far into it.) provide some of the best writing of the novel. Hanlon tearing Mars’ prose apart and explaining to him why it doesn’t work is somehow funnier when the words come from the author’s mouth. It feels like an overly perceptive self-critique.
The theft aspect of Zither is the only thing that lets the novel down. In keeping with the rest of the story, it’s silly and a bit surreal, but unfortunately, the mystery parts tend to weigh down the narrative. If the novel leant into a purely silly ending, it might have worked, but a good chunk of the narrative focuses on solving the mystery and the resolution and grand reveal prove unfocused, leaving the story feeling a bit off-balance.
Still, Zither is a fun, entertaining romp. Filled with fantastic characters, exotic locales and some very specific facts about Hod Carriers, spar varnish, and Finland, it’s a must read for comedy spoof fans.
Genre: Mystery / Comedy
Print Length: 277 pages
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