Babes in Gangland by Bix Skahill
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I always enjoy the New Bizarro Authors Series. It’s something I look forward to every year. With this series, I get to read new voices in fiction, and often it’s a refreshing change to the norm, even within the bizarro genre.
Babes in Gangland by Bix Skahill introduces us to one of the seediest, most crime-ridden cities in the world, whose major industry is slaughterhouses. Kid Phoenix is a gangster who is shot behind his favorite strip joint slash educational facility, Stripping Through History. But in the hospital, an accident causes his soul to be transfer to a newborn baby. Nine months later, with the help of enormous henchman Ram Bountybar (great name, by the way), Kid Phoenix, now Baby Jaydon, begins a rampage as he tries to find out who had the guts to shoot him and exact his revenge. He is pursued by by a 100-year old cop and his 13-year-old partner with progeria.
First of all, this book is flat-out funny. Skahill never manages to lose the humor through the course of the novel. Actually, the two cops were funnier than Kid Phoenix/Baby Jaydon managed to be. He comes of as cute and funny for a little while, but by the end of the novel, he starts to wear a little thin. This might have more to do with shock-funny value of a little baby cussing and saying the kind of stuff that would make Tony Soprano blush, but it wears off after a little while. That’s probably why Baby Herman remained more of a secondary character in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
At the same time, I think Skahill realized this, which is why the chapters get broken up and part of the story gets told from the viewpoint of the two cops as the book progress. It provides some relief and a bit of a mental refresh.
Switching off the viewpoints actually comes very naturally and is not jarring at all. Skahill manages to provide a unique voice for all of his characters to the point where I could practically hear their voices in my head with little trouble (don’t worry, I’m still taking my medication). I have to give kudos to the author for that as that’s not always an easy feat, especially with the way characters come and go from within this story as quickly as they do.
While the story is a fun and funny journey, I have to admit that the destination was disappointing. The entire plot basically raps up in two pages with an ending that almost comes completely out of the blue. There were hints to one mystery throughout this book that made the answer a bit obvious, but the other one comes out of nowhere, and frankly, it kind of pissed me off a little. It felt almost like the author just rolled the dice and let random chance decide the solution to the mystery with no hints to go back and say, “Oh yeah! I see it now!” and completely spoils one of the more endearing characters. Now, when you think about it and the motives given are explained, you can accept them halfway. But the fact that there weren’t enough or really any clues throughout the book makes it blindside the reader, and not in a good or satisfying way that makes one say “Yeah, that makes sense.” Instead, it leaves the reader saying “What the…?”
Still, as I mentioned, it’s a fun journey with lots of humor and great characters (and great character pairings), but it would have left me a lot more satisfied with more build-up or hints as the end approached. It’s like enjoying the taste of a fine steak as you chew it, but then being forced to spit it out right as you’re about to swallow.
Babes in Gangland by Bix Skahill earns 3.5 tommy guns out of 5.