Book Reviews


The Unsolvable Circus

David J Horn: The Unsolvable Circus

Publisher: Horn Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-6151-5193-9. Pages: 181

The Unsolvable Circus is a comical crime story. If Laurel and Hardy joined forces to kidnap a young girl they'd struggle to make more of a mess of the job than Edgar, Jonah and Shem make of it. Jonah at least has an excuse for his incompetence. And that is that he's too young and inexperienced to have a vague clue how crimes are supposed to be committed.

Edgar and Shem on the other had are old enough to know better. They're so old in fact that Edgar lives in a retirement home. A signal of their gross ineptitude arrives early in the plot when none of the bandits is sure whether or not the girl that they've snatched is the daughter of their intended victim. For it transpires that the photograph which they have used for her identification has no known provenance.

The catalogue of errors lengthens when the foolish criminals deliver the ransom note to a complete stranger by mistake. The ransom is duly paid, but the amount is negligible. And just to prove that the kidnapped girl's father is as great a moron as the crooks that he's dealing with, he manages to find himself in a public park, half naked, with two policemen, who he proceeds to assault. And, as if the situation couldn't possibly get any worse than that it does, in several different ways.

Most of the story is very funny. I found myself laughing out loud often. Unfortunately in the final chapters of the book I suspect that Mr. Horn's concentration began to lapse. He introduces an FBI agent who works for a surreal and comical misinformation bureau. That's funny enough, but it has little, or nothing, that I can make out, to do with the main story. And then further to that he adds a computer programmer, who likewise has nothing whatsoever to do with the matter at hand. There are some vague, fictional, literary links between some parts of the plot and its bizarre, tacked-on, valedictory sub-plots. But in my personal view they are substantially irrelevant and I believe that the author would have done better to have dispensed with them.

I can say honestly that I enjoyed the story greatly up until its diversion into the odd FBI chapters and its talk about computer programming. Those parts I didn't like. For my own part I'd be delighted to see a revised version of this story with a more coherent and relevant ending.

My recommendations for this book are as follows. If you'd like to read a book which is mostly very funny but has what I consider to be some serious flaws in its ending, then read this one.

If however, you'd rather read a story which has matured and mastered all of its aspects, then keep an eye out for future editions of The Unsolvable Circus. It's a story which, in my view, certainly has potential.

Review by Patrick Mackeown, October 2007


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