My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Grand Theft Octo is Elmore Leonard meets Carl Hiaasen!
Craziness is the foundation on which the mischievous novella, Grand Theft Octo, is built. From the first page, even to the last page, the reader is constantly being sprayed with a hypertonic mist of craziness.
. . .And I personally loved it.
In this fleeting—albeit hilariously dark and grimly emotional—narrative, we’re introduced to its principal protagonist, one Jonathan Doe—a fabulist and klepto grifter—as he is currently embroiled in his latest deception. Jonathan Doe, recently fired from his job for pilfering, is now standing before the troubled soul and failed businessman, who is Harry Jenkins, posing as a horticulturalist. Harry, a man who not only talks to his individually named plants, but plays special music for them as well, is about to entrust Jonathan—whom he truly believes to be a plants expert—with his homemade aboretum for the princely sum of $500.00 per month…for four months. The mark, Harry (who once worked with Jonathan for the same company from which Jonathan was terminated and Harry resigned), loves his plants beyond what is explainable, and gives the con man, Doe, specific care instructions for his precious vegetation before he departs, including feeding them only mountain spring water. And Doe convinces Harry that he, Doe, has it all under control. But he, Doe, doesn’t. And things began to spiral out of control.
It, however, doesn’t stop there. Jonathan Doe’s con is long; his lies always laid on extra thick. And in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, the daredevil fabricates a new sham. This time, he fraudulently wears the distinguished hat of a Taxidermist. And when hired—by a mob boss named Lewis Caputo—to prepare a wealthy family’s deceased Bassett Hound for a taxidermy, Doe, not knowing the first thing about the process of freeze-drying dead animals, attempts to run a double-cross on the mobster, after collecting his pay, of course, and soon perceives that he has finally bitten off more than he can chew. Here is where Sarashina, a real Taxidermist, makes her entrance. The pretty Japanese practitioner—who was formerly married to a world famous actor named Hank Butterfield—takes a liking to the con man, Doe, and goes out of her way to help save his arse. But does the threat of a potential syndicate-ordered contract on his life cause the foolhardy Jonathan Doe to at least meet his senses half way? Absolutely not.
Jonathan Doe has invented numerous swindles, and breezed right on through them all, unrepentant and without any fear of retribution. Hell, Doe doesn’t even foster a nagging guilt on his conscious … Until he teams up with the sixteen-year-old Herbert Malt, and designs and prints out a stack of adverts that announce his latest double-dealing scheme: Professional octopus teaser.
The star of this wild and twisted comedy crime caper, Jonathan Doe has made the acquaintance of many a sucker, and outslicked many a slickster … Until his smug insincerity maliciously lures him into the path of one Rupert Whistler.
Set in the imaginary town of Vestibue, Grand Theft Octo, scribbled by the evidently talented Niels Saunders, packs a hilariously ruthless gut punch from start to finish. And I seriously could not stop laughing out loud while reading certain scenes in this wonderfully researched prose. Indeed, it is a novel with exquisite taste…an inky heart…a conniving mind of its own…and an exciting, action-packed ending. So sit back and relax with a glass of your favorite wine, why don’tcha, as Saunders provides the perfect pairings of fancy gourmet burgers and fancy gourmet hotdogs; black Périgord truffles, white Alba truffles, cave-aged Gruyère, pommes soufflés, and steamed la Bonnotte potatoes. And expect to be thoroughly entertained.
The antagonistic eel, if you will, of this story is the crime boss, Lewis Caputo. And it is to many people that Caputo has done tremendous harm, including to the likes of Jonathan, Sarashina (also known as Holly), and the A-list actor, Hank Butterfield, Sarashina’s/Holly’s ex-husband. For over twelve years, Sarashina/Holly and Hank have awaited the day to exact their revenge on Caputo. And now that they have Jonathan on their team, with his own ax to grind against the detestable Lewis Caputo, together the three wage war on their villainous foe. And it is to be a war for the crime caper genre’s record books.
While Grand Theft Octo is an amazingly-composed work of satirical fiction, one might think that the adverse consequences—which can result from living an unscrupulous lifestyle—would encourage the real world’s deceitful and crooked and lowdown and perfidious to straighten up and fly right. But, much like in the famous words of little Scotty Beckett: ‘They’ll never learn.’ Because despite those dangerous, and sometimes deadly, consequences, greed, that gluttonous spiritual monstrosity of excessive want, won’t allow such people to. For it, that spiritual monstrosity called greed, propels such persons to continue onward in their imposturous ways of living, even if such ways could possibly lead them to their own bloody demise.
It’s been said that cats have nine lives.
. . .It’s also been said that God watches over all damn fools.
I would recommend Grand Theft Octo until the end of time to those enthusiasts of crime caper fiction, were I permitted to do so. Because it is just that deftly-written of a novel. And I reckon that Carl Hiaasen, the storied Master of the Crime Caper, himself, and even Elmore Leonard, were the great man still here among us in the land of the physically living, would both stand in agreement.
Five gut-bustin’ stars.
• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Imperial Press, as well as Niels Saunders himself, for the author-issued copy of Grand Theft Octo in exchange for my honest review.
Analysis of “Grand Theft Octo” by Niels Saunders is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington: https://catellingtonblog.wordpress.com
Date of Review: Wednesday, July 26, 2017