Let’s kick off April’s comedy reviews’ month with this little gem I found in a book swap. The pocketbook from Stuart Kaminsky is a winner for its hilarious premise. It is a whodunit that keeps you giggling and is so clean it contains only one swear word at almost the end of the book.
“Someone had murdered a Munchkin. The corpse lay bleeding on the yellow brick road that leads to the land of Oz. Young and frightened starlet Judy Garland summons private detective Toby Peters to the M.G.M. sound stage. His Assignment: keep the murder out of the papers and the studio free of scandal. Peters soon realizes, however, that Miss Garland’s life is in danger. Then there’s another murder -and another. As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, “People come and go so quickly here.”
So says the book descriptor and indeed the plot grabbed me by the throat and threatened not to let me go until I read every silly word. Well, really that is what the book is”?silly. Now honestly, I think we all know there aren’t any Munchkins except in the world of film and Judy Garland is dead:but, well:it’s just so hilarious that I had to read it.
This book is filled with movie nostalgia, and icons like Clark Gable, Judy Garland, and Micky Rooney, who appear in the book and give “testimony”. I like the touches of near reality evident in the characters of the “little people” in the book. A small person has a German accent according to one witness except he’s not German he’s from Switzerland and surprised anyone would know the difference. He’s been wrongly accused of murder. In fact it appears everyone’s been wrongly accused. So who’s the murderer? You’ll have to follow the little people being hurtled out of windows, the crooked dentist (isn’t that a pun?), and the detective trying to evade being arrested by his own brother! This plot keeps rolling along, as do the laughs.
A word to the wise: don’t read this book in public unless you’re a) really comfortable being looked at funny when you laugh in front of others or b) have one of those vague smiles when something is funny. The sarcastic writing of Kaminsky is a natural laugh maker.
So many twists and turns usually make for a difficult plot to follow but Kaminsky’s book is easy to make sense of. I theorize it is the fact that we actually know the players because of movie history. There is no clutching to remember, “Now who was the Clark Gable guy supposed to be?”
One of the most interesting points is how the detective is a lone wolf. He is offered a permanent job with MGM Studios but he’s always poor, always alone and hates others telling him when he can go to the bathroom. I’m connected to that type of mentality so I get his attitude:and I’ve been that poor.
If the old gumshoe style of the 1930s and 1940s is your kind of book then Murder On the Yellow Brick Road is up your alley — or is that road?! It sizzles with clear descriptors of nostalgic movie heroes and heroines. They are some of the biggest names in their day and easily recognizable. The characters added in are just as large as life (even the Munchkins!) as the huge movie stars and easily fit into the book’s humorous style.
In today’s rough and tough writing age and a time when blood and guts are on every page this is a truly refreshing book to read. If you are trying to break up a tension filled life, I recommend this book. I also think that if you are new to North America it would help you to learn about our history of film.