Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus

Review published on August 1, 2016.

Debut novels deserve the benefit of the doubt. Okay, not Fifty Shades of Grey, there you can just let your doubts run wild. But usually a debut novel is as much about signs of promise as an engaging story with appealing characters. Epiphany Jones falls into that category. It has interesting (and mentally disturbed) characters, a rapid and convoluted story of crime and revenge, humour, action, moments of the grotesque, and yet it is also clumsy in places in ways that an experienced author would probably have avoided.

We first meet Jerry Dresden having sex with Audrey Hepburn. This is our first clue to the fact that he is obsessed with porn and fantasies. Jerry has some significant mental problems, which include hallucinating people who aren’t real. Except one day one of his hallucinations appears in the flesh and her name is Epiphany Jones.

Epiphany is a homicidal nymph with a mysterious vendetta who proceeds to turn Jerry’s life upside-down, sending both of them on the run to Mexico and Portugal and then to France. The plot moves rapidly and Jerry’s disturbed voice often leads to moments of dark comedy, such as when he hits his mother with her own vibrator and thinks: “I know this isn’t the time, but I almost wanted to give it a squeeze, just to see how it works.”

But there are sequences that don’t work so well. There are a few chapters in Portugal where Jerry pointlessly settles down to a quiet life until Epiphany returns to jolt everything into action. The plot relies on some overused devices, such as suppressed memories. But the book is a good read and it’s dark yet funny and shows a lot of promise, so give it the benefit of the doubt.

Stephen Joyce 3/3

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus
Orenda Books 9781910633335 pbk May 2016

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