Androgynous Murder House Party by Steven A. Rigolosi
Six longtime friends gather for a holiday weekend at the Long Island estate of independently wealthy snob Robin Anders. As near-fatal accidents and mishaps mount, Robin is faced with the possibility that one of the six is plotting murder most foul ~ and that Robin may be the intended victim. But no deaths occur until the group returns home to Manhattan. Robin decides to investigate the suspicious circumstances, while the reader is faced with a larger mystery to solve: Are Robin, Lee, Alex, Law, Chris, Terry, and J male or female, straight or gay? And who exactly is Robin Anders? Is Robin a modern take on Oscar Wilde’s ferociously snobby Lady Bracknell, zealously guarding Manhattan from the barbarians at the gate? Or is Robin a misunderstood soul in the tradition of John Kennedy Toole’s Ignatius Reilly? Or can Robin be the heir apparent to Sarah Caudwell’s Hilary Tamar, who finds the confines of gender identification much too constricting in an effective narrator? All will be revealed in the final chapter of Androgynous Murder House Party … perhaps.
An entertaining mystery with an outrageous cast of characters and decidedly unique style of writing, this is a story readers will either love or hate. Personally, I fell on both sides of the spectrum at different times in the book but without a doubt appreciate the wit and clever writing of the author. While the ending offers a resolution to the murder mystery, numerous questions are left unanswered ~ not the least of which are the gender and sexual orientation of the main cast. These questions might drive the detail-orientated reader crazy and distract from the actual story, but the unexpected charm of the narrator helps to distract with the unique flair.
The story begins with an impromptu gathering at the vacation house of one, Robin Anders. Robin is the narrator and main character of the story. Also invited to the weekend getaway are Lee, Alex, Law, J, and Chris. These six close friends have a history of arguments, relationships, hookups, and close bonds that only form when the best and worst of a person are known. Among these six friends are three men and three women of which three are gay and three are straight. Who fits which descriptions is never explained and the story lacks any identifying markers as to gender and sexuality for these characters beyond what the reader can guess from the plethora of misleading clues. After the weekend trip, two unexpected deaths occur and Robin is left in a tailspin over a missing bequeathed item and furthermore, answers to the sudden rude demise.
Robin narrates in first person first tense point of view. Their exaggerated personality takes a bit to charm, but eventually the pill popping, outrageously snobby, ridiculously egotistical socialite of ambiguous gender and sexuality does endear to the reader. Robin has definite ideas about etiquette and proper social behavior and depends on a hilarious mixture of rainbow colored pills to get through any ordeal. It’s very draining for the wealthy older scion to have to deal with each and every person fawning over them in sexual longing. Robin masterfully pulls through and focuses on the real items of importance, the missing hairbrush and well the dead bodies. Robin is by turns incredibly insightful and completely obtuse. In part one, Robin survives eight murder attempts, justifying each without a thought to any deeper motive to those present for the weekend.
The mystery of the murders was actually quite interesting and crafty. The intricate set of details and information exacted create a good pace that makes the story engaging and inventive. The final resolution is nearly impossible to guess due to the random nature of clues and complexity of the various roles. The reader is treated to explanations as the narrator discovers more answers, but very few additional clues are offered before the narrator has pieced together the facts. Overall it’s a bit convoluted and ridiculous, but then again so is the story and characters.
The writing, which is really Robin’s personality, can be extremely wordy with an over use of politically incorrect and sometimes insulting analogies. This does become a pattern to the prose, giving a flow that is easy to follow as the story progresses. An example is the following:
Overall, the story is exactly like the character of the narrator Robin – ambiguous, overblown, wordy, verbose, exaggerated, snobbish, and blind to the obvious while indulging in the latest in designer pharmacology. If you can immerse yourself into the mystery while not concerning about any of the innumerable details left purposefully confusing, then this mystery will entice and entertain. The undeniable talent and humor of the writing and prose delights the reader as does the unique characters and view of society from the wealthy high rise seats. This story is a unique and fresh tale meant to entertain and confuse and succeeds admirably.
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