Felix Gomez #4: Jailbait Zombie

The Felix Gomez series is back, bringing us another uncomfortably-titled novel to review. So let’s… um… okay, usually I try and pick a thematically appropriate verb to use in place of “review” for this part, but this time I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be extremely creepy. Let’s just review Jailbait Zombie, by Mario Acevedo.

Synopsis:

If you haven’t yet encountered Gulf War veteran-turned-vampire private eye Felix Gomez, then now is the time! Jailbait Zombie—the fourth in author Mario Acevedo’s outrageously original dark fantasy p.i. series—pits the undead against the living dead, as vampires meet zombies for a no-holds-barred beatdown. As dark, sexy, funny, and endearingly strange as Acevedo’s previous vampiric excursions—Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, and Undead Kama Sutra—Jailhouse Zombie is more of the top-shelf bloody madness that inspired Tim “Nuclear Jellyfish” Dorsey to comment that Mario Acevedo “is a very disturbed man—and I mean that in the absolute finest sense of the term.”

Source: Goodreads

SPOILERS BELOW

Oh, Felix Gomez series, you are a study in contradictions. Just when I’ve gotten used to the books oscillating between good and bad, you up the ante and decide to start mixing things up within the space of a single volume: improving in some aspects, but failing at things you’d previously done well. But enough beating around the bush; let’s delve into the details of Felix’s latest adventure.

Plot-wise, this might be the best Felix Gomez book yet. With the surety of a pendulum swinging back and forth, the series has once again backed away from the weird alien conspiracy stuff that features in the odd-numbered books in order to deliver a more traditional urban fantasy vampire-detective story. Zombies have started turning up; and being far smellier and stupider than vampires, they threaten to break the Masquerade and expose the existence of the supernatural to humanity. While trying to track down their source and put a stop to them, Felix is approached by a dying girl who wants him to turn her into a vampire in order to stop the progression of her illness. It’s a classic vampire dilemma, the characters are well-written and well-explored, there’s plenty of awesome zombie-smashing action… And while there are of course some gratuitous sex scenes, because Felix Gomez remains at heart a tawdry exploitation series, it does at least have enough restraint to have Felix hook up with an appropriately-aged colleague rather than the titular underage girl.

What confounds me, though, is the style and structure of the book, and how markedly inferior it is to the previous entries of the Felix Gomez series. For some reason, the writing style has suddenly become incredibly choppy, with numerous chapters that are only a few pages long and in which nothing of significance happens. Just… why? Why would you do this? Were you getting paid by the chapter rather than by the word, and so wanted to spread as little writing as possible over as many chapters as possible? Was this book written in serial format to be published in a magazine which would only give it a couple of pages per issue, forcing otherwise unnecessary chapter breaks?

Whatever the reason, the effect is to badly disrupt the flow of the narrative. The story advances in awkward fits and starts, getting interrupted by an awkwardly placed chapter break each time it looks to be picking up a little momentum. Seriously; the book has 60 chapters, some of them barely a single page long. And the occasional long one, which actually flows appropriately, just makes it more jarringly apparent how awkwardly cut-up the short chapters are. Despite how good I found the premise, this is a book which at times hurt to read.

Ultimately, I believe that a fundamentally good story with a flawed execution is better than a fundamentally bad story written well, and my final rating reflects that. Still, I fervently hope that the remaining books in the series avoid whatever went wrong with the writing in this one.

Final Rating: 3/5

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