Paperback, 418 pages
Published October 23rd, 2015 by Cartosi LLC
This was the first book that came aaaaaaall the way from the US for me to read and review it. When I saw the cover I immediately had to think of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, which is a weird ass sort of arthouse/mystery/thriller movie which I love, but is definitely not for everyone. My hunches about these kinds of things are usually pretty good and it turned out there were some unexpected similarities between Missing Mona and Lost Highway. Thankfully, though, Missing Mona was a lot less fucked up, and more coherent. I say thankfully because while I might like these sorts of things in a movie, I can usually appreciate them a lot less in a book.
~First Half of the Goodreads Synopsis*~
“Tommy has boomeranged back to his parents’ residence and a dead-end job after too many years in college. As he looks squarely at his next decade of life, his smartphone convinces him the time is ripe for a change. A gift from his grandfather provides the means, so he embarks on the path of blues artists and beatniks before him – and hits the road. He immediately meets a damsel in hitchhiking distress who says her name is Mona. Her presence persuades him that the bright lights and dark clubs of Chicago might be his kind of town. So on a summer Saturday night, they settle into a fancy hotel overlooking the beaches of Lake Michigan.
On Sunday…Mona disappears.”
* Don’t read the last half of the original blurb if you want this book to surprise you. I think it gives away too many spoilers.
Tommy has just turned 30 and seriously needs a break from all the latest technology, or well, mostly the internet. He jumps into his Barracuda, which had this colour in my imagination…
…and sets off to the west to escape his current life while searching for inspiration for his future one. I believe he was only 1.5 hours away from home when he already met sexy redhead Mona who eventually hitchhikes with him to Chicago. They spend the night in a hotel together, but when she disappears the next morning, Tommy’s on a mission; a mission to find Mona.
Let me get this straight: I’m not a car person. I don’t give two shits about cars. If it drives and doesn’t look totally like a toaster on wheels, I’m good. I can appreciate air conditioning and electric windows. Oh, and I have no idea how to drive an automatic, even though that’s supposed to be a lot easier than manual. That’s about all the passion for cars I can muster up. So when there were endless descriptions of car parts during the first 50 pages or so, I sincerely hoped this wouldn’t be the case for the remaining 370 pages. The constant references to a beautiful Hemi made me google it. I found this:
My level of excitement/understanding:
You can imagine how happy I was when the car part bits slowly dissolved into fictitious sulphuric acid.
It wasn’t that the rest of the story was bad during those 50 pages or so. The car talk was just really distracting for me. When I could finally fully focus on the story, it was awesome!
There’s crime, blues music, strip clubs, good food, humour, suspension(heh,see what I did there?!), a make-over shop which can make you look like whoever you want to, and some pretty fascinating characters, which I will get to in a bit.
Tommy insists on solving the mystery of Mona the old fashioned way, meaning no cell phone and no internet access. Eventually, he’s forced to use the internet anyways (just shows how much we rely on the WWW huh) to, for example, order a Detective’s Handbook for Noobs. If you have to order a book in a physical bookstore, you can’t generally pick it up the next day. Not where I live at least, and apparently also not in the Chicago region where Tommy is staying. Instead of buying a laptop or new phone, he goes to the library to do his research, so that’s something, at least, when it comes to doing it the old fashioned way.
The characters. I love quirky characters and there were plenty of those in this book. There’s a waitress/crime student called Penny, who I could only picture as Penny from The Big Bang Theory for some reason (funnily, there was a reference to the show a little later in the book, which made me giggle). She was probably the least quirky of all the characters, but she still has a pretty important role in the book. Then there’s Mona, of course, a mysterious girl who’s into some pretty weird things. An Asian car mechanic/whizzkid who likes to keep his sentences short and to the point, yet can perform miracles when it comes to technology. Like a Mr.Miyagi without the karate moves, really. A librarian with an eccentric clothing style, for one. And Tommy himself is just a nice guy who really wants to solve this mystery and have a little adventure in his life while doing so.
I generally liked Tommy and his painful progress in his wanting to become a great private detective, yet I couldn’t get past the fact that Tommy’s a total slut as well. Every girl he meets gets the flirty treatment, and magically, they all seem to fall for it! And, of course, all the women are extremely beautiful, most of them in a burlesque kind of way. I would’ve liked it better if he had to struggle a bit more. It’s not like he’s James Bond for crying out loud (I get just as annoyed with him, though).
All in all, I can say I truly enjoyed this book. It’s fast paced mystery at its best (I read all 417 pages within 2 days or so) and feels like an old-fashioned noir detective yet with modern technology incorporated in it. The writing style was pleasant, I can see the author is very talented, and another great thing is that the mystery is all tied up nicely in the end (I really hate it when you want to know what happened and then get an unsatisfying explanation in the end). I’m giving it 4 brownies and a firm recommendation for everyone who likes a bit of a quirky detective story.
A big thank you to Joe Klingler for providing me with a (physical!) copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
Links to the book:
~About the Author~
Joe Klingler is the author of the award-winning thrillers RATS and Mash Up. He has been a programmer, research scientist, and entrepreneur, and is fascinated with the interplay of people and the technology
they absorb into their lives. His thrillers intertwine digital technology and his passions for music and motion. Joe currently resides in California with a Mac, a motorbike,
and a guitar. Missing Mona is his third novel.