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Review: THE THREE FATES OF HENRIK NORDMARK (ECW Press 2010)
Author: Christopher Meades
Henrik Nordmark may be the plainest, most uninteresting person ever. Henrik is so alienated (and alienating) that he manages at one point to drive people out of a chat room by trying too hard and saying the wrong things. This would make for a very dull story – except that things change quickly. One day at the corner grocery, Henrik chases an errant plum he's dropped outside to the street and bumps into a stranger (who prevents him from lunging into traffic) wearing a tuxedo (in broad daylight!). The stranger stoops to retrieve the plum, a photo is snapped by a distant photographer and the stranger tells Henrik, "You must be careful, my friend," hands him the plum and disappears. For good.
Henrik ponders his near-death experience and vows that he shall become unique if it's the last thing he does.
The tuxedoed man is (of course) the photographer's intended target. However, the photo snapped is Henrik's. This photo is presented to three assassins, all of whom are over 90 years old and living in a retirement home. Their leader, Conrad, is blind. His cohorts Billy Bones and Arthur are (essentially) deaf and mute, respectively. Together, they comprise the world's worst assassination team.
There are three other players in this comedy of errors. Two of them are Roland and Bonnie, customers buying lottery tickets when Henrik dropped the plum. In all the excitement, their lottery tickets get switched. One is the winning ticket, but it ends up in the wrong hands.
Roland is almost (although, not quite) as hopeless as Henrik in the pathetic department. He tends to create his own problems, actually. He has a job and a girlfriend. He has a life Henrik would probably envy. However, he sees himself as a victim.
Meanwhile, there's Bonnie. She's married to Clyde. (Yes, cute, isn't it?) And they each secretly hate and plan to kill the other.
In any case, these people keep crossing paths. While Henrik searches for ways to become unique, the others keep showing up in some fashion or other, and suffer consequences. Meanwhile, the three assassins keep trying to kill Henrik and each attempt goes horribly and humorously awry.
And while the assassins' thwarted attempts may devastate others, Henrik wanders off, contemplating his plight in oblivion.
Will Henrik find salvation? Will it come from Parminder, the Indian woman who dispenses advice on the sly while working the phone banks for a religious organization?
This story, which is thought provoking and hilarious, will appeal to fans of the Douglas Adams sort. Readers who enjoy absurd humor and a bit of screwball comedy.
However, you'd be mistaken to take it for mere slapstick. THE THREE FATES OF HENRIK NORDMARK is about weird coincidence, fate and the ways life can be unfair. It's actually a harsh message, but Meades delivers it with humor, which helps it to go down easier.
The story culminates in a big finish, in which everyone may or may not get their just desserts. And Henrik's three fates? You'll have to read the book to find those out.