Two weeks ago, I got my hands on Braineater Jones, by Stephen Kozeniewski. I loaded it into my iPad, opened it in Kindle, and then went straight to Amazon.com to read the book description. Based on the description, I wasn’t sure what I would think of the book. I love zombies and horror, I love books set in historical periods other than my own, but for the most part I’m not fond of mysteries. I blew up the cover image and studied it. It reminded me of the pulps, and the tagline, “No memory, no pulse, no clue” hooked me instantly.
It’s October 31, 1934. Braineater Jones, the titular character, wakes up face down in a swimming pool with a bullet hole in his chest. He has no memory of his previous life, no idea how he wound up dead, or what he’s going to do about his situation. Not to mention, he doesn’t even know the rules of being undead. He heads to the seediest part of town, The Welcome Mat, and begins his search for identity. Before he knows it, he has become a private investigator, specializing in helping his fellow undead community members. Each case brings him simultaneously closer and further from his list of questions about himself and his past. When Jones unwittingly stumbles on what he believes to be a community-wide conspiracy, shit gets real. And fast! Armed with only one ally, Jones will go up against powerful members of the community as he unravels the greatest mystery of all.
Along the way, Jones runs afoul of some of the craziest zombies one could imagine! There’s a head without a body, a closet full of dismembered hookers, a talking fetus, and all other kinds of crazy characters. If you asked me, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you my favorite. Kozeniewski gives each one just enough backstory to be interesting and relevant, without waterlogging the book with nonsense.
I can’t sing Stephen Kozeniewski’s praises enough! He deftly wove history and 30’s vernacular to create a world that was believable, but not to the point of being cartoonish. At the back of Braineater Jones, Kozeniewski gives the reader a glossary, where all of the terms used are clearly (and humourously) defined, but more often than not the reader can figure out the meaning based on the rest of the sentence. Rather than being a hindrance, the vernacular adds atmosphere.
I highly recommend Braineater Jones, but especially if, like me, you’re not sold on mysteries. The plot is gripping, the mystery is hard to solve, and all of the characters are interesting. The twist ending was a strong finish, leaving me feeling satisfied, but wishing for more of Jones’ exploits. I hope I haven’t seen the last of Braineater Jones, P.I.!