Saturday, October 30, 2010

Looking for Laughs? 'Take the Monkeys and Run'

Review: TAKE THE MONKEYS AND RUN (Kindle Edition 2010)
Author: Karen Cantwell

Barbara Marr, a typical (if slightly frazzled) suburban mom, has her world go topsy-turvy. First, her husband, Howard (who resembles George Clooney -- hmm), walks out on her without explanation. (Something vague about needing "space.") As the book opens, Marr is investigating strange goings on in the night at the house next door.

This house (which Marr and her neighborhood pals have come to call "The House of Many Bones") has something of an odd history. The house has been vacant for years and the fellow who comes around to cut the grass occasionally has been less than gracious. Being a woman of active imagination (perhaps, overly so) and fascinated with film, Marr would like to know just what's up with that, anyway.

Things really take a turn when, after her nocturnal wanderings, Marr wakes up to find a raft of monkeys swinging from the trees in her backyard. This development leads to a closer examination of the empty house next door. This examination leads to the discovery of something horrible. Let's just say the House of Many Bones lives up to its name.

This sets off a chain of events that lead Marr to call upon an old suitor from college (a hunky sort who Marr compares to Robert Redford -- yow!). As the (now single) mother of three daughters, she needs all the help she can get. She occasionally gets a little too much help from her mother (a real force of nature, in her own right). Marr is also ably assisted by a couple of neighbor moms. Altogether they make a charming and funny team of people who simply want to know what's happening. Especially when guys who'd qualify for appearances on Jersey Shore or The Sopranos start showing up.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the cop who resembles Brad Pitt who's called in to investigate the monkey infestation? Hmm ... methinks there's the tiniest bit of potential for romantic tension here.

TAKE THE MONKEYS AND RUN has a lightness and confectionary quality that balances well with the dark and dreadful aspects of the danger Marr eventually faces. Karen Cantwell has a quick and nimble wit that makes the serious stuff more palatable. (And for cat lovers, don't let, um, a particular scene put you off. Keep going. You won't be sorry.)

As the plot builds up in danger, suspense and intensity, Cantwell never loses her focus on the funny. As each scene unfolds, nothing is as it seems in this rollicking send up of the various action movies and gangster films that Marr (as a wannabe film blogger) often mentions.

The story builds to a big finish, its exposition coming at you in a rush and a tumble. Totally in keeping with the beleaguered protagonist's thoughts. (And the "quick mental recap" in Chapter 19 is priceless!)

Combining the wackiness of its (ostensible) Woody Allen namesake with the antics of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, TAKE THE MONKEYS AND RUN has enough LOL moments (literally!) and wild twists to keep you turning the pages, until you reach the end. An ending that simply begs for a sequel -- starring George Clooney, Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, of course. :)

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