Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 11 February 2005
Phineas Poe, an alcoholic, drug addict, and former investigator for the Internal Affairs Division of the Denver Police Department, was just released from a state psych ward where he landed when his wife, Lucy, was killed in an accident last spring. She may have committed suicide, she was slowly dying from leukemia and had been depressed. Or her death may have been the result of a boating accident. Or Phineas may have shot her, an act he occasionally hallucinates. The reader never actually learns the facts behind Lucy's death. They're not what's important here.
This surreal, very edgy noir novel opens around Christmastime, with Poe drinking vodka at a hotel bar. A stunning woman in red sits down beside him. Her name is Jude. "She has a scar at the edge of her mouth and disturbing eyes. Her body is like a knife." It has been too long since he sat so close to a woman. The two go up to his room. She is $200. richer before they open the door. Whenever he awakens, he does so in a tub filled with melting ice and watery blood, minus a kidney. The lovely lady has absconded with a vital organ and left our hero oozing, but neatly sutured...er stapled. She also left a note for Poe - "If you want to live, call 911."
Events only become more bizarre as the tale continues. Poe leaves the hospital way too soon, nauseous, weak, still bleeding and barely able to walk. He has to find Jude. She has stolen his heart along with the kidney. Definitely smitten, Phineas wants one more tete-a-tete with this scalpel wielding woman. He wants her body, along with some champagne, before he finally kills her. Their reunion is his ultimate goal, although he is so high and hallucinatory most of the time, that occasionally the two are together and Poe is unaware of it. Phineas would like to recover his kidney too, and see if it is possible to reinsert it back where it belongs. He calls his friend Crumb, proprietor of a local sex shop, The Witch's Teat, who practices medicine on the side. Crumb takes care of gunshot wounds and even dental work, for the cheap and the desperate. He is not a doctor, or even a past med student, but he does have a closet filled with old medical texts. He is certainly able to dispense friendly advice, check on Poe's wound...and even better, give him morphine for the pain. Somewhere around this point, Poe discovers he may, or may not, have a bag of heroin stuffed inside him where his left kidney used to live. The heroin is payment for the organ Jude stole and was supposed to have delivered. Did she deliver?
Poe and Jude hook up, finally, and go on an implausible mission together with an objective I am not totally sure of - but it doesn't matter. It's the getting there that's important -the things that happen along the way. Look at the "Wizard of Oz!" From Denver to Las Vegas to El Paso, the two meet a succession of sinister, twisted men and women who usually wind up dead: Crumb, Eve and Georgia, Rose White, Moon, Blister, Pooh, Luscious Gore, etc.. One needs to suspend disbelief to get into this paranoid nightmarish scenario. And when one does, it all fits into place nicely. I had a blast reading this rather compelling novel and intend to read Will Christopher Baer's other two Phineas Poe books, "Penny Dreadful" and "Hell's Half Acre."
Baer's first-person narrative, sometimes dreamy, sometimes incoherent, always strong, is perfect here once the reader is able to loosen up and go with the flow. What does that mean, actually? Well, reading "Kiss Me Judas" is like having a fascinating conversation with an intelligent person who often hallucinates. Jude pumps Phineas full of liquid Valium and morphine, for pain and to control him, so his mind does wander far and wide, and he is the one telling the story - with great flair and occasional confusion. Once you get the rhythm and understand the tangents, it works. Trust me! This quirky novel is well worth the read. And I loved the conclusion - it suits!