Footnotes are just one of the things I love about Lisa Lutz‘s Spellman series: she’s got a fun premise (a family of detectives!), great characters (oh, that little sister! And the 80-year-old best friend!), and the series is just plain madcap.* So, of course I was intrigued when my loving husband brought home a book I’d some how overlooked: Josh Bazell’s 2009 debut thriller, Beat the Reaper. The protagonist is like Izzy Spellman, only dangerous instead of ditsy. That’s Pietro “Bearclaw” Brnwa, former teenage mob hitman, now undercover as Dr. Peter Brown, an intern at a Manhattan# hospital. All is well until a dying mobster shows up at Dr. Brown’s hospital, recognizes him, and suddenly the sharks are circling. Literally.
Bazell is evidently some kind of madcap creative genius. He holds a BA in literature from Brown and an MD from Columbia. And Brnwa is a character you’ll never forget – violent, smart, irreverent, caring, funny. Did I say violent? At the end of Beat the Reaper, he’s alive … and it’s time to move on. I won’t say more except that you will be astounded at what Bazell comes up with for Brnwa. And you’ll be gobbling up those darn footnotes like they’re M&Ms.
Book #2 – the new one – is Wild Thing. It’s eleven years later and Brnwa is now a doctor on a cruise ship. A reclusive billionaire – we know him as Rec Bill through the whole book – hires Dr. Lionel Azimuth to accompany paleontologist Dr. Violet Hurst to a small town in Minnesota. Rec Bill wants to know if it’s true that there is a monster in the lake. Upon this simple premise a thriller is built.
It goes without saying that Brnwa will be mightily attracted to Violet, that the plot is packed with mayhem, hilarity, and wit in about equal parts. In addition to the footnotes, Bazell has included an appendix and sources. I promise you, you will read them.
And on page 210, you will gasp aloud at his audacity.
*I know, the photo is not Lisa, it’s Josh Bazell, looking all Clive Owen-y.
#A Manhattan hospital, because Bazell got his MD degree at Columbia University, which is right there, and he lives in Brooklyn. As I am going to NYC for spring break I will be scanning the streets for him.