Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I AM (NOT) THE WALRUS by Ed Briant

If you've read today's interview with Ed Briant, then you know that when he was a teen, he found a stash of his parent's books and read through a ton of spy novels and at least a few romances. Those influences are both present in his current novel, I Am (Not) the Walrus, which contains both a mystery and a love story, both of which turn out in strangely satisfying ways. Oh. And the book is funny.

"Toby," Zack shakes his head. "I can't believe I have to tell you this, but the whole point of playing rock and roll is to make yourself more interesting to girls." He puts his guitar case down and shoves his hands into his pockets, as if to emphasize the fact that he is not going to move. "If you have to pass up an opportunity for romance in order to work on your set, then you're not just barking up the wrong tree, you're barking in the wrong bloody forest."
Written from Toby's perspective, we learn right away that he's crap at rugby and has a rather sad romantic history, but that he's excellent at playing his brother's Fender precision bass. Toby is part of a two-man band, playing covers of Beatles songs with his friend Zack. Mostly they play in Shawn's old bedroom, Shawn being the owner of the bass and all - and being away in the British Navy. (For a character who never once graces the pages of the novel in person, Shawn is a very real presence - almost as real as the creepy guy who seems interested in reclaiming Shawn's bass. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Toby meets a beautiful short girl named Michelle, who rates him "nought out of ten" when awarding marks for attractiveness to boys. Of course, he did almost dislocate her shoulder on their first meeting . . . and with a "meet cute" like that, how can romance fail to follow?

The mystery aspect of the novel arises early as well. While making a repair, Toby finds a note indicating that the bass was stolen. Did Shawn steal it? Toby would like to think not, of course, but there's some evidence that might be the case. And where is the girl who wrote the note in the bass? And who is the creepy guy who answers the phone number on the note, and who starts stalking Toby and calling him "good sir"?

Throw in some family drama - money is tight, Toby's now-single mother is having a rough time finding a full-time job, and Shawn is in trouble - and one important public performance by "The Nowhere Men" (Zack and Toby's band), along with some clandestine meetings with Michelle, who is not supposed to be dating, and you've got yourself one unputdownable read.


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