Kiss Me, Judas

( 43 )

Overview

Part mystery, part love story, part hallucination—"a stylish exercise in neo-noir paranoia, wall-to-wall deceit, and sexual obsession" (Chicago Tribune).

Will Christopher Baer's hypnotic debut novel merges the best of the noir tradition with a scalpel-sharp modern sensibility. When ex-cop Phineas Poe is released from a six-month stay in a Denver psychiatric hospital, he meets a savage and unsentimental woman named Jude. After a drunken night ...
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Overview

Part mystery, part love story, part hallucination—"a stylish exercise in neo-noir paranoia, wall-to-wall deceit, and sexual obsession" (Chicago Tribune).

Will Christopher Baer's hypnotic debut novel merges the best of the noir tradition with a scalpel-sharp modern sensibility. When ex-cop Phineas Poe is released from a six-month stay in a Denver psychiatric hospital, he meets a savage and unsentimental woman named Jude. After a drunken night with her, Phineas awakens in a bathtub packed with ice, holding a soggy note that reads "if you want to live, call 911." Jude has taken one of his kidneys. This phantasmagoric tale follows Poe as he pursues, and falls for, the mysterious Jude and is plunged into an edgy, drug-blurred underworld inhabited by a gleeful cast of sinister characters. Fast, furious, and glittering with a razor-sharp wit, this is a startling novel of modern noir.

"A surreal nightmare full of the hard-boiled noirish spirit of Raymond Chandler." — San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle

"Baer offers real characters instead of genre archetypes, and structures the novel beautifully. . . . The plot has more twists than a Chubby Checker concert." — Memphis Commercial Appeal

Will Christopher Baer was born in 1966 in Mississippi and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He has won fiction prizes from Story Magazine and has published work in Bomb and Nerve. He lives in California.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Dark, foreboding, claustrophobic and dreamy are words that accurately describe this noir. The setup is simple, if a bit over the top (as is much of the book, a possible problem if you don't give yourself over to it): Phineas Poe, an ex-cop fresh out of a mental hospital­where he retreated after the suicide (or was it murder?) of his cancer-ridden wife­meets a woman at a hotel bar, they seem to connect and she goes up to his room with him. He awakens a day or so later in a bathtub full of melting ice, a note wadded in his hand that reads, "If you want to live, call 911." She has, it seems, taken his kidney.
>From there everything gets only weirder. He walks out of the hospital a little too soon, catches up with the woman, ostensibly to retrieve his kidney and also to kill her, but he is also drawn to her. She may or may not be working for the CIA; Poe may or may not have killed his wife; a bag of heroin may or may not be stuffed inside him in the cavity where his kidney once resided; the kidney may or may not be in a small freezer the two of them haul around.
Lots of maybes, lots of hallucinatory writing and an oddly compelling story. If there is a downside to the book, it is that the first-person narrative is sometimes too literary, too clever for its own good, but the dreamy uncertainty of everything nudges you along until its not-very-happy conclusion. All in all, very impressive, a standout in what is becoming a crowded field.
­Randy Michael Signor
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although there are obvious biblical allusions in Baer's stylized debut, this noir tale takes no clearly biblical route. The characters' names promise a governing metaphor: there's Jude, an alluring sociopath; Eve, a black-tongued lesbian; Rose White, a virginal med student; and a bowling alley called the Inferno. There's also a beautiful young man afflicted since birth with HIV born to die who begs for a kiss before his demise. Even the title foreshadows a betrayal of biblical proportions. Yet this unrelentingly dark story, set in Colorado and Texas, features mostly underworld characters and a surreal sense of reality. Narrator Phineas Poe, a former investigator for the internal affairs division of Denver's police department, offers only a hallucinatory account that is both compelling and confusing. Just released from a psychiatric hospital, he meets Jude, has sex and awakens in a tub full of ice. He discovers that she's cut into him and stolen one of his kidneys. Despite his weakened state, he tracks her down. On his way, he encounters the Blister, a corrupt cop who reveals that Jude replaced his kidney with a bag of heroin and is using him to smuggle dope. Should the bag dissolve, Poe will die. Should he remove it, he might find a bomb. On the other hand, Jude may be exploiting him as a live carrier of his other kidney for efficient delivery to the man with the money. Poe definitely has problems, not the least of which is the haunting memory of his wife's wretched death. His dilemma only worsens when he joins Jude in her nefarious career, falls in love with her and anticipates her betrayal. Yet she's not what she seems and where they ultimately end up provides this intriguing tale with a quirky, redemptive glow. Editor, Courtney Hodell; agent; Daniel Mandel. Author tour. Oct.
Library Journal
Not for the faint of heart, Kiss Me, Judas starts off bloody and zooms nonstop to a gripping climax. Baer's minimalist debut novel is reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film--dark, graphic, and twisted--but without the quirky humor. Phineas Poe, an ex-Internal Affairs cop, walks straight out of a mental hospital into his worst nightmare: after drinks with a mysterious woman, he comes to in a bloody, ice-filled hotel bathtub--missing a kidney. "If you want to live, call 911," reads the note left with him. Poe breaks out of the hospital in search of Jude, his seductress, unsure of whether he will kill her or have sex with her and then kill her. Flashbacks and hallucinations, drug-induced and otherwise, hint that Poe has more to deal with than organ-stealing vamps: namely, the bizarre circumstances of his wife's death. A paranoid thriller; for public libraries.--Christine Perkins, Jackson Cty Lib. Svcs., Medford, OR
Kirkus Reviews
Stylistically superb debut that reinvents the thriller, dots every noir, and slashes every t, each note pitch-perfect as a presto from hell. After six years with Denver's Internal Affairs Division as a rat sniffing about the IAD itself, Phineas Poe has a nervous breakdown, his wife dies (leukemia? suicide? murder?), he turns himself in at a psychiatric hospital, and when he gets out six months later, he goes to a bar, picks up a prostituteþor, rather, Jude picks him up, and slips some horse tranquilizer into his Tequila Sunrise. He awakens half-frozen under reddish ice in the bathtub, a telephone by the tub and a note in his fingers saying "if you want to live call 911." When the emergency team lifts him out of the tub, Poe finds that Jude has performed some rough surgery on him, i.e., stolen his left kidney and stapled him back up. All this is told with great panache and subzero cool. Surprisingly, scene follows scene with no dimming of invention (Poe's jolted, for example, to learn that Jude also left a large deposit of raw heroin in his lower intestine before closing up his body). Will he be surgically manipulated again later? A killer puts a gun to Poe's head, offering him $100,000 to murder Jude and retrieve the kidney for the killer's dying brother. But Poe's so filled with liquid Valium and morphine that one can't tell whether he's tripping, as the dead walk and talk and long scenes waver in graphic dreams. Baer will almost certainly write better books than this, but probably not with such youthful verve, bare nerve-ends, or frigidly droll, dead-on metaphors. May his second be just as trim, while taking a bigger bite out of darkness and the big sleep. (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140289015
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2000
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 801,109
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.85 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Will Christopher Baer was born in 1966 in Mississippi and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He has won fiction prizes from Story Magazine and has published work in Bomb and Nerve. He lives in California.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 43 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(20)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 43 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2006

    A Sexually Dangerous Novel.

    The strength of this book is definitely in the language. Baer's writing is truely unique (although its somewhat similar to Palahniuk and Clevenger) and really gets into the characters head and well as yours. The language really brings out the unqiue characters in the book and their voices. What I liked about the story and the characters, especially jude, is the way the author gives them a sexy and dangerous slant, you always feel that the characters are dangling over some edge of a cliff.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2004

    Head Trip You Can't Help But Love

    Of course, to get to Penny Dreadful and Hell's Half acre, you must read Kiss Me, Judas first. The other books are better, but this one is enjoyable: a great noir trip with characters you learn to love and a plot constantly twisting and turning. The kind of reading that leaves you clamoring for the next event; although Phineas can sometimes be a bit of a pain. Overall, a well-written book that begins a beautiful trilogy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    very strong book, very strong writing

    A little bit of Vachss, a little bit of Chandler, quite a bit of Baer, this is strong noir. This was a little difficult to read quickly; Baer allots much credit to his readers and this makes for a very conscious read. His is an almost dizzying writing style, but it is done well and HAS A VERY POWERFUL EFFECT. Baer is certainly a great writer. And this story is a great modern romance. Kabol

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2004

    A twisted love story

    Baer deconstructs an urban myth and rebuilds the world of neo-noir with this twisted love story about Phineas and Jude. Jude steals Phineas's kidney and he wants it back so he tracks her down. <br> That was enough to get me to pick up the book. The dark world and sinister humor that Baer invokes kept me hooked through the rest of the story as he tries to discover who he is. How can you resist great lines like:<br> <br> I'm cold, religiously cold.<br> or<br> My wife used to say I was a terrible liar, that it was the only time I smiled. But she was wrong; I smiled when I was telling the truth. <br> or<br> My ex-girlfriend is armed and dangerous, and I have an erection.<br> <br> The dark world combined with the wit makes for a great read and someday an even better movie. The style is short and choppy to mimick the drugged stupor Phineas is in and you really want to know what's going on so you read so much more. And when you finish the novel you'll be satisfied for a few days, but then you'll feel a tug from Phineas and you'll pick up the next book in the trilogy Penny Dreadful. Then you will feel the tug again and you'll pick up Hell's Half Acre. <br> <br> He'll make you laugh, make you cry, and then steal your kidney.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2000

    Thank you Barnes & Noble for Recommending this Book

    I first heard about this book through the B&N New Writers section and I have recommended it to all of my friends since. The premise of the story first piqued my interest as an urban myth but there is more to this story than the physical journey. The mental journey of the main character keeps you guessing whether he will take the high or low road. THAT is the crux of the book. Suspensful and dark, if you like stories that take you to a parallel universe, this is it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2011

    A feverish noir

    I couldn't put this book down - it moves quickly through the shady territory of organ thieves, prostitutes, bad cops and the tragic wealthy. The main character, Phineas Poe, is an unreliable narrator, alternating between suicidal attraction, drugs, and madness. When the feverish race ends, you can only say 'MORE!'.

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  • Posted April 27, 2011

    Like nothing I've ever read before.

    Written almost completely in spoken narrative, the pace is fast and efficient. The plot and the characters inhabiting it are imaginatively derived. The conversation between them pops with an energy most writers of the genre fail to capture. This is the first Baer I've read, but I'll read more.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    Two Thumbs Way Up!

    A hypnotic fever dream of a novel that feels like a long tumble down the rabbit hole. Similar in tone, mood and imagery to a David Lynch film with some Chuck Palahniuk grittiness thrown in. Classic femme fatale! Should appeal to hardcore noir fans only.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2001

    Kept Me Up ALL NIGHT

    This book got hold of me and wouldn,t put me down until I stayed up all night and read it. The twist and turns are what gives reading Noir and Mystery a good name. One of the best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2001

    For serious noir readers.

    Wow, it left me with my mouth open. Mr. Baer, with his first novel, leaves you feeling mesmerized, beaten and numb throughout the whole story. This will definately suit every person that feels kind of beaten in life and to all those mysanthropes who'd like to fist f**k every human scum on earth. For sure one of the best noir novels ever writen. Thank you Mr. Baer, Phineas is just like me, a BIG Time Loser, literaly speaking.

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    Posted June 26, 2010

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