Garrett Cook takes on the hard-boiled detective noir serial genre, but with teddy bears, in Jimmy Plush: Teddy Bear Detective. It’s told as a series of stories which tie together as Charles Hatbox, whose mind has been placed in the body of Jimmy Plush to pay off his gambling debts, tries to solve a series of loosely related cases in a city rife with prostitute furries and stereotypical crime bosses. But what happened to the real Jimmy Plush?
This one is genuinely hard to review, mostly because I’m not sure how I really feel about it. It’s got some good elements and an authentic feel to it. Cook captures the feel and writing style of the old noir serials, racism and all. At the same time, he breaks from this in ways that feel…I don’t know. Inappropriate isn’t the right word. I’m probably looking for a word that’s a little closer to predictable, in that he resorts to memes that seem to show up in a lot of bizarro novels, and a lot of those seem like they’re tacked on just to make it a little more bizarro. At the same time, it’s kind of hard to see where else Cook could have actually gone with it.
If I wanted to get philosophical, at its heart, Jimmy Plush comes down to being a novel of identity. You see, Jimmy Plush existed before Hatbox swapped bodies. And the original Jimmy Plush had a bad reputation. At first, Hatbox tries to be Jimmy Plush and act in the way people expect him to. But later, as Hatbox begins to realize who Jimmy Plush is/was, he begins to assert his own identity. It becomes a story of doing what’s expected of you and who people want you to be versus being your own person. Or maybe I’m reading too much in this. It is supposed be a pulp tribute, afterall.
It’s a solid novel, but it trips over itself a few times. The quality of the prose generally good and for the most part flows very easily. At the same time, the author occasionally trips a little on the flow. Hatbox is not a very likeable character, but at the same time does generate sympathy. He’s kind of weird that way. The other villains, however, are generally stereotypical. Admittedly, that might be part of the point, but then again, there was a lot of unrealized potential for more interesting villains or secondary characters, which was disappointing. Ultimately, Jimmy Plush is okay, but it just didn’t do much for this reviewer.
Jimmy Plush: Teddy Bear Detective by Garrett Cook earns 3 giant beef jerky sticks out of 5.