The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag, Rankin’s 17th novel, occupies a strange place in his shared universe, as it’s written as a direct sequel to the fantasy autobiographical Sprout Mask Replica, yet for much of the novel Rankin is under the illusion that he is in fact Lazlo Woodbine, the star of They Came And Ate Us. Confused? Well, you needn’t be. Apart from a couple of throwaway references to chaos theory, the events of Sprout Mask Replica have no impact on this second volume of Rankin’s autobiography, and all you really need to know about Woodbine is that he is a hardboiled gumshoe detective genre cliché, limited to only 4 stock sets (his office, a bar for talking a load of old toot, an alleyway, and a rooftop for the climax).
Woodbine rather unbalanced the plot of They Came And Ate Us, but here he adds some great moments of comic relief, as Rankin’s plot slithers uroboricly back and forth. The plot is a good one, with the very macabre tale of the hero being kept for years in a suitcase and fed a bit at a time to a ravenous voodoo handbag colliding with a mindbending idea where the souls of the dead are downloaded into the mind of God via the ultimate computer. There’s also the requisite number of tall tales embedded in the story, and plenty of great laughs (though these diminish as the plot kicks in during the novels second half).
The one downside is the continued presence of Rankin’s poetry which, amazingly, seems to be even more dire than before. It also has one of those tricksy multiple-choice endings, where you’re not entirely sure if Rankin is being very clever, or he just couldn’t think of a decent way to end the book. Still – an inventive, hilarious, horrifying and deranged book – and another winner from Robert Rankin. Recommended.