by Bob Garfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bob Garfield’s Bedfellows (Thomas & Mercer 2012) is not what you’d expect from a title that promises a mob-laced thriller. It’s humorous, personal, and sometimes long-winded with none of the in-your-face villainy and violence that usually typifies mobs stories. The summary in the forward says it all:
A Neighborhood. A Mob. A Girl. A Boy. Another Girl. Another Mob. A HItman. A Hitwoman. A recession. A Chiropractor. And a Twist.
That’s all it took for me to curl into my double-wide reading chair, tea at my elbow, and dig in. A down-and-out Wall Street exec opens a mattress store in a mob-controlled beach town. He talks the mob enforcer out of making him pay the monthly protection money, falls in love with the don’s daughter, and gets recruited to help stop a violent Russian mob that wants the town’s ‘enforcement’ business.
Garfield, in what seems to be his fiction debut (before this, he wrote advertising-related tomes), does great character sketches. I can see Jack Schiavone as Mr. Mattress, Big Manny as the mob’s second-in-command, Little Manny as his inept but passionate son. There are twenty-four character introductions in the first sixty-one pages, each sketch made memorable with humor and clever phrases, enough so that I manage to keep track of what normally would be an unwieldy cast for a thriller.
The plot is a late bloomer. By page eighty-two, I was wondering if the story might be merely a humorous romp through the not-so-seamy underbelly of a failing mob town (which doesn’t interest me). By page one hundred twenty, I got a sniff of the plot and then it was off like a hitman’s 9mm bullet. The action is clever, unusual, the storyline unique, and the conclusion satisfying. I like the retro chapter headings (also used by Carsten Stroud in Niceville) like ‘Kick in the Head’ and ‘Yes and No’. Garfield has an authentic and quirky sense of humor in his story telling. Consider:
Mr. Mattress puzzled over: if the plot was as Doe incautiously described, how in the world would the gang that couldn’t hire straight get the Russian menace on a chiropractor’s table?
He looked like Bobby Kennedy at a costume party, dressed as the lunar lander
The don then did something that everybody in the move does but you hardly ever see in real life. He screwed up his face and pinched the bridge of his nose. Fatigue, physical and nervous, was taking its toll.
My recommendation: Enjoy the first hundred pages knowing that soon thereafter the action is going to run away with your time.
Jacqui Murray is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. In her free time, she is editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.