Thursday, 18 April 2013
She has been arrested for murder, and during questioning tells police that she is a member of a secret organisation devoted to fighting evil. Her division, 'The Department for The Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons' - or 'Bad Monkeys' for short - is an execution squad that rids the world of especially evil people. However, the man Jane has been arrested for killing was not on the official target list.
This strange confession earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor interviews her at length about her supposed career as an assassin. Her tale grows increasingly bizarre, with references to hidden messages in crosswords, dollar bills that can see and scary, axe-wielding clowns. The doctor does his best to sort truth from lies, but whenever it seems he's getting to the bottom of things, there's another twist to unravel.
Not until the full, extraordinary story is told will we learn whether Jane is lying, crazy...or playing a different game altogether.
I first saw Bad Monkeys on a display in Norwich Waterstones that also included quirky books such as Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. The version they currently stock has an awesome cover, but as I borrowed my copy from the library I had to settle for one that was a little different.
Cover snobbery over with, I really enjoyed reading Bad Monkeys. And by that, I mean I loved reading this book! Matt Ruff's tale of good and evil is completely insane and only gets barmier as the story progresses. Fast paced and frantic, Ruff has you by the scruff of the neck from the beginning, dragging you along with Jane's tales of how she came to be involved with a mysterious organisation that uses toy guns to exterminate evil people.
Ruff is clear from the beginning that Jane is an unreliable narrator, someone who is potential holding back important details, which is my favourite type of storyteller. She's kind of a more drug addled Miriam Black. The white room chapters, where Jane is being interrogated and which serve as interludes between Jane's recollections, are reminders that not all is as it seems. Or is it?
My only criticism is that the ending does spiral out of control. In fact it reminded me of a scene from a Doctor Who episode entitled Lets Kill Hitler, in which the Doctor and River keep out witting each other in Hitler's office. Where Ruff's introductory chapters of Jane as a deviant school girl had purpose and a sense that these type of events could actually happen, the last few chapters are a touch extreme and test the limits of believability.
Nonetheless I would recommend Bad Monkeys to anyone and everyone. I'm definitely going to buy myself a copy sometime soon. It is just a shame that it is a standalone novel, as for once I wouldn't mind returning to Ruff's deranged world and finding out more about the Bad Monkeys and the Scary Clowns.
P.S Here's the cover for the version the stock in Waterstones Norwich (from goodreads):