Heads You Lose

Heads You Lose

3.6 54
by Lisa Lutz, David Hayward

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New York Times-bestselling author Lisa Lutz conspires with-or should we say against?-coauthor David Hayward to write an original and hilarious tag-team crime novel.

Meet Paul and Lacey Hansen: orphaned, pot-growing twentysomething siblings eking out a living in rural Northern California. When a headless corpse appears on their property, they

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New York Times-bestselling author Lisa Lutz conspires with-or should we say against?-coauthor David Hayward to write an original and hilarious tag-team crime novel.

Meet Paul and Lacey Hansen: orphaned, pot-growing twentysomething siblings eking out a living in rural Northern California. When a headless corpse appears on their property, they can't exactly dial 911, so they move the body and wait for the police to find it. Instead, the corpse reappears, a few days riper . . . and an amateur sleuth is born. Make that two.

When collaborators Lutz and Hayward (former romantic partners) start to disagree about how the story should unfold, the body count rises, victims and suspects alike develop surprising characteristics (meet Brandy Chester, the stripper with the Mensa IQ), and sibling rivalry reaches homicidal intensity. Think Adaptation crossed with Weeds. Will the authors solve the mystery without killing each other first?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this experimental California improv, Lutz (The Spellman Files) writes odd-numbered chapters and footnoted barbs directed at her coauthor and ex-boyfriend, poet Hayward, whose even-numbered chapters and stiletto-sharp ripostes add a freaky dimension to the collaboration. Grown siblings Lacey and Paul Hansen are scratching out a precarious living from a Northern California clandestine marijuana operation when a reeking headless human body turns up in their backyard, eventually identified as Hart Drexel, detecting barista Lacey's former lover. Because Lutz and Hayward agreed not to discuss or to undo a plot development the other had produced, they create a jittery black-comic narrative complicated by inter-author tensions unveiled in memos exchanged at the end of each chapter. Shifty secondary characters, some charming, some odious, pop in and out of the resulting dizzying plot that comes off like a trendy Left Coast restaurant mélange—daringly composed, exotic to contemplate. Author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Lutz, who gave us the insanely funny and popular Spellman series, launches a new one starring an offbeat brother-and-sister team who seem to work harder at battling each other than they do at solving a murder. No, Lutz still can't stay away from the whole family thing. Coauthor Hayward isn't family, though he and Lutz used to date, which evidently colors those fight scenes. With an eight-city tour; there should be lots of interest in this one.
Kirkus Reviews

Inspired perhaps by those round-robin collaborations published 75 years ago by England's Detection Club, Lutz (The Spellmans Strike Again, 2010, etc.) and Hayward add a new twist: The two collaborators, each responsible for alternating chapters, are in sharp disagreement about how the tale should be told.

When she finds a headless corpse on her California farm, Lacey Hansen can't call the cops because they'd see that she and her brother Paul were growing marijuana. Instead, they dump the remains in a suitably remote location before they realize that the dead man was their old schoolmate Darryl Cleveland. Or maybe he wasn't, as Lacey realizes when Darryl turns up alive. Now it looks like the murder victim must be Paul's old friend and mentor, veteran cannabis grower Terry Jakes. At least according to Lutz, whose chapter identifies him as such. But Hayward, unwilling to bid farewell to such a promising character, brings him back to life—hey, didn't Lutz do it?—before Lutz emphatically kills him off again when it's her turn. And so it goes and goes, with Lutz demanding in the exchange of notes that end each installment that Hayward develop clues that will solve the mystery, and Hayward observing that Lutz, whose preferred resolution to any untoward complications is to cut the Gordian knot by another murder, must be "the Pol Pot of mystery writing."

The surprise here is how little all this whimsical metatextual byplay changes the formula of alarums, excursions, red herrings and other tangents beloved of the genre; it just invites the authors to join the eternally bickering sleuths.

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.16(h) x 1.11(d)
Age Range:
18 Years


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Heads You Lose 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a lot of fun. The issue that I had with it, as I read an eBook version, was with the footnotes. In the paper books she writes, half the fun is the footnotes - but in the electronic version, the footnotes were all at the end of the entire book, which made paging back and forth really annoying, and in the end, too much work. So, the electronic version lost that entire element. If you are a fan of Lisa Lutz, as I am, I would NOT recommend the eBook version!!
Felonious More than 1 year ago
This was a Goodreads first reads give away. I was thrilled when I found out I won this book. The book was a collaboration between two authors. Lisa Lutz would write the first and all odd numbered chapters and David Hayward would write the even numbered chapters. There was to be no discussion or outline, they would read the others chapter then add their own and pass it back and forth until they finished. I thought the premise was unique and held possibilities in an experimental way. I received the book and read the editor's notes. I was a bit worried when I found out that David was an ex-boyfriend of Lisa's. Before the story gets started and between each chapter, the two authors write notes and critique each other. After the first 5 or 6 chapters I was loving this book and was sure it was going to get 4 or even 5 stars. The notes between David and Lisa were as interesting as the murder mystery. There were a few passive aggressive things going on, like when Lisa told David he should do some back story for some of the characters, David did just that including a back story for the cat. When Lisa suggested that some of his language was a bit too 'high end' (and she didn't want to Google so many words), David toned down his language throughout his next chapter and in parenthesis added definitions to words that most people would already know. At first this kind of thing was humorous and didn't harm the story. By the time I got to chapter 10 or so, things were falling apart. It seems to me that the writers let their pettiness and egos get in the way of the story. Instead of building on each others characters and adding to the story they seemed to spend their chapters tearing each others characters down (including killing them off) and trying to repair damage to their characters (including making them just injured and not dead). Towards the end they (the writers) were making comments about who is winning and losing. In my opinion neither one of them won and the story ended up losing. A collaboration and a competition are not the same thing. As a mystery it had a strong beginning, but the more you read the more erratic it became. It went from solving one murder to solving 9 possibly 10 if you count the 4 possibly 5 people killed years earlier. The characters personalities kept changing with every chapter so by the end of the book you didn't care who did it or who might die next and you wouldn't have been a surprised if the cat (Irving, my favorite character) turned out to be the killer. By chapter 20 or so I had a good guess at who the killer was going to be (and I was right), so according to their notes I knew who did it before the writers. I didn't have all the details figured out until the end (and neither did the writers from what I could tell). The only thing that kept this book from getting 1 star and staying off my 'burn-pile' shelf was the fact that I actually liked a lot of the writing by both authors. As far as experiments go I can't say this one failed (an experiment is something you do to see the results) but I can say that I didn't like the results of this experiment. I wouldn't mind seeing this experiment tried again, but by two writers that didn't have so much animosity towards each other. I would only recommend this book to people who want to know what NOT to do during a collaboration.
Twink More than 1 year ago
I often recommend Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans series to readers who have finished the Stephanie Plum books and are looking for another light hearted fun mystery series. Heads You Lose is a stand alone book and is a collaboration with David Hayward....who just happens to be Lisa's ex-boyfriend. And it is this connection that makes this book so much fun to read. So, in the novel, we meet brother and sister Lacey and Paul. They're twenty somethings living in a small town in California. They also grow pot for a living. When a headless corpse appears on their property, chances are it could be work related. But, the ideal thing seems to be to move the body elsewhere to be found given their profession. When the body appears yet again in the front yard, Lacey recognizes it this time as her ex-fiancee. Lacey decides to give the sheriff a hand solving the case...with Paul's help of course. Lisa writes the first chapter and subsequent odd numbered chapters; David does the even numbered. Emails between the co authors preface each chapter and barbed footnotes abound. The subtle sniping between the two is hilarious. Each chapter takes a new direction as characters are added and killed off. (and brought back!) Clues abound as each author tries to steer the direction the book should take by adding their own twists. "Another idiotic duck reference was all Lacey had to show for her visit with Marybeth Monroe. It was if some outside element were at work, temporarily putting the brakes on her investigation." The town is populated by wildly quirky characters, seemingly random clues and red herrings galore - a source of contention between Lisa and David as the outcome is not pre determined. Heads You Lose was such an entertaining, laugh out loud read. I hope the two authors can put their differences aside and collaborate again. No wait....it works much better for us if they don't get along!
Lynie More than 1 year ago
Paul and Lacey Hanson are orphaned siblings in their twenties, living together and supporting themselves by growing and selling marijuana. They bicker about anything and everything, but one thing they agree on; because of their illegal activities, they can't call the sheriff when a headless corpse shows up on their property. They move the body to a place they're sure it will be found pretty quickly but won't be connected to them. When the headless corpse reappears on their front lawn, Lacey and Paul embark on their own investigation, each going off in their own direction. In typical Lutz style, the humor increases as the bodies pile up. HEADS YOU LOSE is a fun read even if it were just your average quirky mystery, but it's not. The format for the collaboration between former lovers Lutz and Hayward gives this one a whole new spin. Their plan to co-author this book together is for Lutz to write the first and all odd numbered chapters and Hayward to write the even numbered chapters, without the benefit of outlining or discussing the plot. Neither could undo the other's chapter content. After each chapter, they've provided their critiques and responses, evidencing an escalating battle of wills to determine the direction the story will take and which characters will be killed off. Their humorous repartee sent me to Google to see if they've reunited romantically, because they sounded like every married couple on the planet who ever decided to do a lengthy project together, kicking and screaming all the way! All in all, it's a fun read with a new spin. If you're already of fan of the Spellman series, you won't be disappointed with this light-hearted mystery. Lynn Kimmerle
harstan More than 1 year ago
In California, Paul and Lacey Hansen are twentyish brother and sister whose parents are dead. The orphaned siblings grow pot to sell in order to earn some money. However, their smoke hazed world is shook when they find a headless corpse in their land. The headless body places the siblings at odds with each other; a normal occurrence. The only thing they agree to is they cannot call the cops as they will be busted for growing weed. They relocate the corpse, but a few days later the headless body returns albeit a lot smellier. The pair decides after haggling to investigate who killed the person without a head and why their dump of a property is a dumping ground. With a nod to the Spellman family chronicles and to Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, Lisa Lutz and David Heywood collaborate (in the blind) on a jocular crime caper starring two siblings who humorously battle one another over who should do what. Simply put when it comes to pot or not, readers know what the Hansen duet choose without a flip of the coin. The Spellman crowd and any one who relishes a zany over the top crime thriller will appreciate the insanity of Paul and Lacey, the poster kids for keeping pot illegal. Harriet Klausner
tinaVS More than 1 year ago
Interesting format. Two authors writing alternate chapters. Fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This isn't great literature, but it was sure worth an evening of good entertainment for me. The humor is mostly in the interaction between the writers and what they do to the characters as an extension of that interaction. Good fun.
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I enjoyed this book very much. Unlike some other reviewers, I didn't find the footnotes on the nook difficult to navigate to or from. But the footnotes should definitely not be skipped! As painful as it may be for the authors, I would love to see another book from them.
JeanW1960 More than 1 year ago
Another fun book from Lisa Lutz and great first novel from David Hayward.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Ever wonder how co-writers work to create a book, a mystery book no less. This book is just one example and maybe this isn’t the best way to do it. Each author writes one chapter after reading and critiquing the previous one. This unique book lets us actually see the process as all the author notes are included for our reading pleasure. Maybe choosing an old boyfriend as your co-writer is not a good idea either especially when you can’t agree on anything including major aspects of the story or the characters, let alone who the killer is. Now the story features Paul and Lacey Hansen, twenty something siblings who find a headless corpse on their property. They can’t chance calling the police because you see, these kids main source of income is the marijuana growing in their basement. The don’t want any cops tripping over their very illegal operation. So of course they just move the dead body to another place and hope it is found quickly with no evidence tracking back to them. Their plans go awry when the body reappears at their curb. Now what?? With these two authors battling each other you just have to read it and find out! Dollycas’s Thoughts I can’t believe this story even came together. This tag team writing mirrored tag team wrestling. It was a wild ride. Funny too, with each one trying to show up the other or teach the other a lesson. A character killed in one chapter, then revived in the next. This book was definitely a journey. As amazing as it sounds a really good mystery was created by this chaos. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know at times if the heads lost were the just the corpse found or the authors as well. You just have to roll with it and enjoy it for what it is. Mystery/therapy sessions. I am glad I don’t know these authors personally because I would have bash their heads together. How did these two even date? It is a very clever concept for one story. I definitely wouldn’t want a repeat performance because at times it was a bit distracting but it was a very entertaining read. Need an escape from the heavy suspense thrillers or the romance novels, try the one out, you will not lose your head, just rest on your tail and win an enjoyable time spent between the pages of this good book!
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RisaCup More than 1 year ago
I came across this book while reviewing the new arrivals at my library. I have to agree w/ Book-Hooker, the editors note sold me on the concept of two writers. Their notes made the book better and I found myself wanting to get through each chapter to see what they had to say to each other. Lisa & David have different writing styles & there were times that I was frustrated switching every other chapter. Lisa's chapters were much more entertaining & smoother to read. But I did laugh out loud throughout David's Dick & Jane chapter-CLASSIC! Loved it & look forward to reading more Lisa Lutz.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book has the potential to be a god one, however the banter between the writers is distracting. They do not write in a similar manner and it makes the book flow choppy. Without the commentary it may have been better. I loved The Spellman Files and hoped the book could compare. Unfortunately it fell short of my expectations.
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