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    Review of THE PRISONER OF VANDAM STREET by Kinky Friedman (see his website)

    Simon & Schuster, March 2004

    Private investigator Kinky Friedman suffers a bout of malaria and begins seeing the world in a whole new way. Part of it is visions and delusions created by the disease, but part of it may actually be a new clarity caused by the sickness, or by being shut up in his apartment with half a dozen strange men (his friends) who insist on taking care of him but who can hardly take care of themselves. When Kinky sees a woman being beaten in her apartment across the street, he's sure that this isn't a vision. When the cops respond to his 911 call and discover that the building doesn't have a third floor where the beating is supposed to have occured, Kinky isn't disuaded, but his friends begin to wonder whether this sighting is about as real as some of the other strange things he's seen.

    More to humor Kinky than because they believe he actually saw anything, his friends start to watch the window where Kinky thought he saw the beating. But only Kinky spots the next incident--where the violence escalates. Somehow he's got to figure out how to rescue this woman who might not exist, but he's got to do it from his own apartment because his malaria leaves him to weak to move.

    Author Kinky Friedman (see more reviews of novels by Friedman) offers up a strange but insightful story of cat defecation, malarial visions, spousal abuse, and friendships in today's New York. THE PRISONER OF VANDAM STREET is a strange book with largely unlikable and certainly unlikely characters. But Friedman's ironic sensibilities are in full swing. I found myself reading along, chuckling at some of Friedman's thoughts on cats--only to be struck by a nugget of insight into the human condition that set me back hard on my heels.

    Although there is humor in PRISONER, this isn't a funny book--quite the contrary. But it is the kind of book that hits you hard and sticks with you for a long time. It's Kinky Friedman at his best. Highly recommended.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 4/12/04

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