The Codicil written by Tom Topor

Book Reviews
The Codicil written by Tom Topor
Aug 29, 2007, 19:26

THE CODICIL by Tom Topor; 1995, Hyperion Books

This is yet another tale of a retired public servant (bitter cop, disillusioned DA etc), who has, after a career related trauma of some sort (spiritual epiphany, forced expulsion from the squad, one slaughter of the innocent too many, you get the picture) moved on to the rewarding and liberating role of “Private Investigator.” You know these guys. Too damned smart for their own good, the sort of mavericks the chief and the councilmen can't tolerate. Guys who spend their time drinking vodka out of a chipped coffee mug in their boxers and shoulder holsters, looking pensively at the tear-stained picture of the daughter or son they're too hungover to visit. Guys who get shot in the arm, sapped from behind, slipped the mickey, or shanghaied to Dr. Fong's secret warehouse only to finally realize with bittersweet irony that it was that dame with the crazy legs and the strange cough that had double crossed them. Guys who inhabit the bail-chasing paint by numbers pulp we've grown to embrace as literary agents of cool and hard luck. Not this time.

Adam Bruno is a former prosecutor hired by the estate of a recently self-offed Viet Nam vet and millionaire who, just before liftoff, added a codicil to his will leaving half of his considerable fortune to a heretofore unheard of child he fathered “in country.” The guy's family of course, can't believe dear old dad could do such a thing and wants our man to fail in his attempt to find Mama-San and their new sister. Ah, but P.I. Bruno is not to be underestimated as he thwarts their hostility and solves the case by... making a lot of phone calls and talking to people who are for the most part completely willing to talk. Holy shit. Talk about anemic. When he finally tracks the lucky girl down she turns out to be a decidedly unremarkable college student who takes the news of her newfound riches in an annoying jappy stride. This book would read much better as a work of non-fiction because the events described seem far too mundane to have been the product of anyone's imaginative vision. Topor finishes up with some too little—too late violence that makes no sense and reads as if Topor, having reached the end of his rope, realizes he's blown it and is desperately trying to park his book in the meat and potatoes section, uh-uh. Somebody pass me the chipped coffee mug.

-John Leamy

The Codicil: A Novel

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