Murder Ink - Dysfunction junction
Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan offers year's most brilliant yet

Murder Ink - Dysfunction junction
Jeffrey Mannix - 12/01/2016

From a small, bumptious publisher out of the mainstream in Scottsdale, Ariz. – perhaps even thumbing their noses at the two-martini Manhattan lunch bunch – comes this year’s most mind-blowing and droll crime fiction book. Poisoned Pen Press will release Australian writer J.M. Donellan’s debut novel Killing Adonis on Dec. 16. Notwithstanding the radar-like gathering of hot new releases by Maria’s Bookshop’s Jeanne Costello, and our finely attuned public libraries, you’re probably going to have to order this book. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you do.  

Killing Adonis is a story seen through the eyes of our irreverent, unreliable protagonist Freya Miller, a vodka swilling twentysomething wiseacre. Trained as a nurse, she is more ambitiously looking for a way to spend her time that’s rewarding in both the standard measure of wealth and primarily zanier than just plain working. Freya gets a tip from a party friend about a nursing job that boasts of “Light duties. Large pay. No questions asked or answered.’‘ In Freya’s state of ennui, possibilities abound.

She passes the quirky examination by Evelyn and Harland Vincetti at dinner at their unimaginably large, rococo mansion the night following her proffered résumé. Freya is on her best behavior, enabled by distant hints from a past interview or two. She gets the job and is immediately required to move in and attend to the Vincettis’s eldest son, Elijah, who lies in a coma amidst an armada of medical machinery. A handsome young man, Elijah, accompanied by no explanation of what put him in such a state, is visited daily by his fiancée, Rosaline. She also lives in the mansion and is preparing both baby-boy and -girl bedrooms for when Elijah wakes up.

Harland Vincetti is infamous, eccentric and obscenely wealthy, head of the Halycon Corporation. His holdings, investments and businesses all leave long trails of destruction and suspiciously deceased or disappeared competitors. Money may not buy happiness but it always buys stature, impunity and phalanxes of friends in high places. Freya is ensconced in a pernicious world she was born to hate and is driven to unmask in her poised and nearly polished way.

Freya is like a wasp in the cockpit of an elaborate, private jumbo jet: a quiet little thing until swatted at, bored or on a mission, and then capable of bringing down the insular world of the over-elevated. But until death comes from a thousand tiny stings, the ostentatious lives of the entitled Vincettis continue on their flagrant path with hilarious overindulgence.

First comes the birthday celebration of Elijah, who is dressed formally, trussed up in a wheelchair, and rolled out to the vast mansion lawn amid the applause and insipid birthday singing of hundreds of deplorably rich and famously phony friends. Next comes the marriage between the comatose Elijah and delusional Rosaline once the baby rooms are furnished and the bride is hearing her clock of conception turn to tinnitus.

In the meantime, Freya has discovered another Vincetti son, Robert, who hasn’t been out of the mansion in many years and, to Freya’s eyes, is nearly normal notwithstanding his agoraphobia. They become confidants, with great adventures in the mansion. A romantic collusion is soon formed to bring down Halycon Corporation, expose all the putative murders and foil the secret plans to merge Halycon with the global pharmaceutical company of Rosaline’s family.

OK, that’s enough. I can’t keep relating the outrageous circumstances making up this brilliant story. There is nothing not to like about Killing Adonis, even the page count at less than 300 is a delight (I’m getting mighty fed up with the trend of 500-page books).

Before leaving, and perhaps this should be in parenthesis because it deserves a review of its own, another debut novel offered by Poisoned Pen Press is The Coaster written by Erich Wurster. Crime fiction doesn’t have to be oppressive and noir to be suspenseful and exciting. Wurster makes it fun, as Donellan does with Killing Adonis. Pick up (order) both these books while you’re at Maria’s. I’m a book lender and I’m lending these only to my closest friends, and I’m asking them to sign a contract containing punitive damages if the books are not returned by a date specified.

Top Shelf

Rockin' Reverend, a king & a doll, and gastro heaven
Rockin' Reverend, a king & a doll, and gastro heaven
By Chris Aaland
04/18/2019

Dude, where’s Makar? He’s in a burgundy and blue jersey, of course! The day after skating in the NCAA men’s hockey championship game for UMass – and two days after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the most talented college hockey player in America – Cale Makar signed his entry-level contract for the Colorado Avalanche.

Meltdown goes big for 25th
Meltdown goes big for 25th
By Chris Aaland
04/11/2019

The sweet sounds of banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, guitar and upright bass will fill the air this week as the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown turns 25. The Meltdown rolled out all the stops for the big anniversary, too, by booking one of its finest lineups ever.

Delicious water and funkalicious roots
Delicious water and funkalicious roots
By Chris Aaland
04/04/2019

It just doesn’t take much anymore. I spent my 51st birthday Sunday afternoon at Durango Craft Spirits, listening to tunes with my buddy Michael McCardell, while enjoying a couple of old fashioneds and a mule.

Goodbye to BREW, gospel- ninja-soul & Cuckoo's 20th
Goodbye to BREW, gospel- ninja-soul & Cuckoo's 20th
By Chris Aaland
03/28/2019

Sadly, one of Durango’s favorite nightspots and a magical brew-pub, BREW Pub & Kitchen, closes its doors this month. Like many other restaurants and businesses, the aftermath of the 416 Fire chipped away.

Read All in Top Shelf

Day in the Life

It's Snow Joke
It's Snow Joke
By Stephen Eginoire
04/18/2019

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” Hall of Fame baseball catcher Yogi Berra once said. That’s a sentiment no one can argue with in these parts. According to Snotel, as of April 12, we are sitting at 153 percent of average snowpack in the San Juans.

Slippery When Wet
Slippery When Wet
By Stephen Eginoire
04/11/2019

What could be a better way to squander a beautiful, warm spring weekend than to spend it sloshing through an icy, water-filled canyon where the non-appearance of direct sunlight is the only guarantee?

Salty Dawgs
Salty Dawgs
By Stephen Eginoire
04/04/2019

A few thousand CFS of cold, clean, snowmelt roaring through one of the driest climates in the United States is a sight to behold.

Etched in Stone
Etched in Stone
By Stephen Eginoire
03/28/2019

With tens of thousands of Ancestral Puebloan sites spanning the Four Corners, rock art decorates countless desert-varnished boulders and cliff walls. These ancient etchings conjure tales that almost seem best left to the imagination.

Read All in Day on the Life