Kevin Buckley’s novel combines elements from Men in Black, The X-Files and myriad TV cop shows as two wise-cracking detectives try to solve a murder involving a Hollywood landmark, gangsters, celebrities and a Burning-Man-like festival in the desert.
A young starlet is found nude and shot to death, sprawled across the Y in the “Hollywood” sign overlooking Los Angeles. Longtime partners and Abbot and Costello look-alikes, Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beefy” Goodness, are assigned to the case. But just possibly, the starlet’s murder was an accident, and the bullet was intended for another victim
In a style reminiscent of writers Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey, Buckley has his wisecracking detectives encountering conspiracy theories; the activities of drug lords, LA gangs and law-breaking police officers; and even an alien invasion. He also lends the story immediacy by referring to famous actors and politicians whose names have been changed by a letter or two, while also mentioning President Trump’s policies.
The titular “lizard people” and lizard cover illustration are a bit misleading and will likely cause readers to expect a science fiction novel; however, the “lizard people” don’t show up until near book’s end. By contrast, the final chapter is appropriately titled “Deus Ex Machina” when a new hero shows up completely out of the blue to save the day.
Despite such missteps, readers will find laugh-out-loud scenes, as when FBI agent, Justin Case, uses the word “metastasizing” in conversation, to Leafy’s amusement. “Metastasizing? … Are you freaking serious?” Leafy says. “All right, all right, I admit it,” Case responds. “Jack Topper used it the other night on C&N and…I’ve been waiting for a chance to use [it] in everyday conversation.” Meanwhile, Leafy and Beefy play straight men to each other as they constantly veer off into tangents that rarely relate to the case at hand.
In all, this inaugural novel isn’t quite on Hiaasen’s level, but readers should agree that it’s a promising start.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.