At one point in Deli Meat (2018, Crooked Cat Books), Bree Arms tells her husband Todd that she is reading a book called, um, Deli Meat. She tells him it “is weird as hell and twice as strange,” which is a good summing up of the book itself. It was a very delightful type of weirdness and strangeness that I found between the blood-red covers of author Tom Halford’s first book. It made me think of Douglas Adam’s Dirk Gently the Holistic Detective, the kind of humour that makes you smile as you read it, enjoying all the quirky characters and the crazy plot twists.
Deli Meat begins with Effie Pitts searching for her missing husband Gilbert. He disappeared along with his brother Richard after they drove from Montreal, across the border to Plattsburgh (a one hour drive, straight south) to get cheap beer for Richard’s bachelor party. He was abducted, along with Richard who was sleeping in the back of his car, by Bart, a member of The Pure White Hand cult. However, there is also a serial killer in Plattsburgh using the same type of abduction tactics to get their victims: they are assaulted as they are opening their trunk to put groceries inside. He is known as The Parking Lot Predator.
This marked regular incidents for roughly four years now, in which no bodies had been found, but parts had surfaced. There had been a foot that had floated up the Saranac River. An eyeball was seen rolling around Court Street, downtown. Many locals felt it was time to begin an investigation.
This is what moves Effie to play detective and to find out what is really going on in the small city of Plattsburgh.
Meet Some Deli Meat Characters
Aside from Effie, there are several other interesting characters of note: Angus Arms, a Donald Trump type of dissembling blowhard, who is wealthy and has an unknown connection to The Pure White Hand and possibly to The Parking Lot Predator. Detective Carl Curl, the beleaguered Plattsburgh police detective who takes his job very seriously, but works himself too hard. Conrad Arms, Angus’ son who works at the Arms’ Diner with his brother Todd where they serve the artisanal salami sandwiches they are famous for. Some great lines in Deli Meat revolve around Conrad, arguably the most likeable of all the cast:
- Conrad only left his house to buy liquor, food and a machete.
- “I want you to realize your dreams, son,” said Dad [Angus Arms]. “All of them. I don’t care how weird they are.”
- After Psycho finished playing, he looked over at Mr. Klone’s head. “I don’t see how any of that applies to me, Mr. Klone. Most of these poor suckers don’t believe they’re in a conspiracy. My problem is just the opposite.”
Then there is my favourite character: Dick Buck, The Polite Private Investigator. Here is the first time we meet Mr. Buck. He is talking to Conrad at the diner:
“I will not be paying for this meal,” he announced, “please and thank you.”
Conrad stepped toward the man. “Sorry?”
“I will not be paying for this meal,” he repeated and pointed the prongs of a fork at Conrad. “If I have to say that again, then that means you are being rude, sir, and I will have to stab you with this fork, please and thank you.”
“You have to pay for the meal. That’s how all of this works.”
The man stood and stared at Conrad. “I will not be paying for this meal, thank you very much!”
He stabbed the fork into Conrad’s shoulder.
Great stuff! I think The Polite Private Investigator needs to have his own mystery series, Mr. Halford!
If you are looking for a remarkably delightful and fun read, then I highly suggest you try some Deli Meat. Four out of five stars at Goodreads. I’m putting it on the “Very Best!” First Books for 2019 as well as the “Summer Reads” list, but don’t wait until then to read it! (Psst: the Kindle version is only $2.99 at the time of this writing!)
Deli Meat by Tom Halford
Crooked Cat Books
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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. The Miramichi Reader (TMR) —Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases— highlights noteworthy books and authors across Canada from coast to coast to coast (est. 2015). James works and resides in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.