Flipping Out by Marshall Karp

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Flipping Out by Marshall Karp

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: After a famous author puts death in her books, her friends start getting killed off too. Can Lomax and Briggs see enough of the case from the inside, and solve the cops' wives killer conundrum? We have great fun finding out.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Allison and Busby
ISBN: 978-0749079789

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In the UK, when people used to be able to afford it, people might form a career in taking run-down houses, doing them up and selling them on for a profit. If very lucky (or particularly weird, as was more often the case) they might get a second career doing the same thing on TV. But over in LA, where the process is known as flipping, they do things much better. There, a group of policemen's wives have formed a group with a well-known mystery author. She writes a murder book set in the house the others are working on, and when both hit the markets together the profit is exemplary. Or so it is until someone starts bringing real life death to the houses - for the very women in the group.

It's a very brave thing to do, to start a comedy thriller when five joshing cops are faced with the death of more than one of their wives. We do have to suspect it might not happen to our returning heroes, Lomax and Briggs, but the fact that Marshall Karp can see this meaty, emotional and seemingly spot-on procedural episode through to the main body of his book, just shows he's at the top of his creative game.

Certainly if we are new to the crime genre we can learn a lot here, all conveyed with Karp's sterling conviction. When a wife dies, hubby is suspect number one, and even if they're a cop they're asked pertinent, patronising and personal questions - and quietly disarmed. The fractures in this body of police colleagues are done a lot better to my mind than the formation of the team of lady labourers, but that's just one of a couple of tiny, petty quibbles I can put my hands on.

Lomax and Briggs are now responsible for three very arch comic thrillers, but there is no need to have read a word of the others before this one. We fall very easily into their comedic patter, and again it comes across as unforced, with the black sarcasm their escape from what they're facing. Karp never lets his eye wander too far from the case in hand, either, and if I dare delve into the second half without giving anything away, the structure of the book is most distinguishing.

Such craft does go some way to disguise the obvious, and the obviously handily forgotten, but I think the thriller remains one to keep one guessing for long enough. Certainly the pay-off is satisfying, and still manages to stand out in a strongly-written book.

If anything the book is a large step away from the earlier, Carl Hiaasen-like, books - regarding theme parks and Hollywood movieland respectively. There's less carping at the surreal side of LA life, and more of a sense of real life activities curtailed by the crime.

I can see some small number of people disliking the mid-way stop, before the restart gets us flowing towards the end, but beyond that hurdle there is still a very decent book to curtail your real life activities for a few hours. The dialogue is still smacking me of realism, right down to the tiny repetitions of detail to different people, the plotting and characterisation as strong as before. Karp's footnote thanks British reviewers for being particularly enthusiastic. I don't think this book will change that much.

I must thank Allison and Busby for my review copy.

For more American crime, we're still raving over Pariah by Dave Zeltserman here at the Bookbag.

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Buy Flipping Out by Marshall Karp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flipping Out by Marshall Karp at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Flipping Out by Marshall Karp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flipping Out by Marshall Karp at Amazon.com.


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