COFFEE SHOPPING MURDER LOVE by Carlos Allende reviewed by IBR
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STARRED Book Review: Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love

COFFEE, SHOPPING, MURDER, LOVE by Carlos Allende is a chaotic, hilarious, and murder-filled journey through LA and Baja California. Check out what Genevieve Hartman has to say in her review of this Red Hen Press novel.

STARRED Book Review: Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love

Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman

A chaotic, hilarious, and murder-filled journey through LA and Baja California

Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love is Carlos Allende’s Quill Prize-winning novel from Red Hen Press. Readers will embark on a riotous, ribald, and somehow still laughter-inducing ride, from a terrible first date over coffee to a somewhat-accidental-but-also-on-purpose murder, with a few unintended deaths, a lot of misery, and of course, shopping and love to boot. 

Jignesh is a CFO at a vacation rental company, a self-proclaimed “full-figured gay man of color,” and is a person with few morals to speak of, embezzling company funds under his vapid boss’s nose. Charlie is a self-absorbed L.A. transplant from Kentucky who is short, white, casually racist, and obsessed with fashion and opera.

They meet over Grindr, and while they instantaneously hate each other, there’s a strange magnetism that keeps bringing them back together. For instance, Jignesh has murdered a woman, and Charlie is selling a freezer large enough to fit her body. A match made in heaven!

From there, it’s only a matter of time—and copious amounts of pills, caffeine, and wine—before Charlie and Jignesh are lovers and co-conspirators. As the bodies multiply, they hatch a half-baked plot to dump the corpses over the border that will lead them through shopping malls, a cruise ship, a desert, the Mexican equivalent to Denny’s, a fabulously expensive hacienda, and beyond.

Allende’s writing feels effortlessly humorous as it portrays two men stuck in the every-day grind of life, watching their lives slowly slip from their grasp. Everything begins fairly normally, but once it starts to accelerate, the story ramps up to break-neck speed and never slows down.

I’m not sure how it’s possible to feel sympathetic for two such objectively reprehensible characters, but Jignesh and Charlie beat the odds. Maybe it is their very real struggles—the rising cost of living, credit card debt, overbearing family members, nosy coworkers, and the insufferable nature of the dating game—that make them seem relatable, even as they are unhinged, horrible, and caracatured people. They constantly complain. They fight. They drag down (mostly) innocent people. Half the time, they’re just plain stupid. But for all their terrible choices, you just can’t help needing to know what Charlie and Jignesh will do next. Each new decision makes you want to face-palm, but it’s impossible to look away.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as unabashedly fun as Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love, and I think it’ll be a while before I read another book that so deftly marries whimsy with wrongdoing, that makes me laugh out loud while cringing at the same time.

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Genre: Literary Fiction / Humor / LGBTQ+

Print Length: 312 pages

ISBN: 978-1636280356

Thank you for reading Genevieve Hartman’s book review of Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love by Carlos Allende! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

1 comment on “STARRED Book Review: Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love

  1. A tale of extreme cowardice and self delusion told by a pair of unredeemable narcissists…delicious! (nom nom) This is a very funny, engaging book, a modern twist on a zany 1940’s farce. As the stakes got higher and more hilarious, I could not put it down.

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