A premise as wonderfully outlandish as any we've seen in a long while... oddball and rambunctious... funny, raw and stylish.” New York Times
“An ebulliant and thrilling narrative... Irreverent, profane, and very funny. Best of all, [Beauman] writes prose that, like Chabon's, has the power to startle, no small feat in a debut.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“First-novelist Beauman, who is just 26 years old, has concocted a bizarre and funny mystery that is filled with eccentric scholarship... Those seeking something completely different will be amply rewarded.” Booklist, starred review
“The story wonderfully mocks eugenics and fascism, while the writing bursts with imaginative metaphors... Quirky, comical, brilliant.” Kirkus Reviews
“First novelist Beauman has created a romp across the decades, with quirky characters and a complex, darkly humorous story.” Library Journal
“Perhaps the most politically incorrect novel of the decadeas well as the funniest.” Sunday Telegraph
“Brilliant… I can only gape in admiration at a new writing force.” Daily Mail
“Beauman strides where lesser writers wouldn't dare tiptoe. Maintains a high wire balance between giddy vulgarity, metafiction, and the sadness of being alive.” Melvin Jules Bukiet, author of After and Strange Fire
“Witty, erudite… articulate and original…often gobsmackingly smutty.” Time Out London
“Frighteningly assured.” Independent on Sunday
“Beauman writes with wit and verve.” Financial Times
“Prodigiously clever and energetically entertaining.” Guardian
“Many first novels are judged promising. Boxer, Beetle arrives fully formed: original, exhilarating, and hugely enjoyable.” Sunday Times
“Dazzling…As in P.G. Wodehouse and the early Martin Amis the tone is mischievous and impudent.” Daily Express
“A heart-stoppingly creative debut. He snares you with a new hook every page.” Simon Rich, author of Ant Farm
“His killer irony evokes early Evelyn Waugh…the funniest new book I've read in a year or two.” Independent
“A rambunctious, deftly plotted delight.” Observer
Kevin "Fishy" Broom, so nicknamed because he smells like rotting fish, deals online in Nazi memorabilia. He finds his job a bit more dangerous than he'd anticipated when he's kidnapped to help find the remains of a World War II-era Jewish, homosexual, nine-toed boxer. In the process, he uncovers a treasure trove of history and its artifacts and personages, including entomologist Philip Erskine, who hopes to breed a superbeetle in tribute to Reich Chancellor Hitler. Erskine, who has a darker interest in eugenics, became interested in the hapless boxer. First novelist Beauman has created a romp across the decades, with quirky characters and a complex, darkly humorous story. The one drawback: explicit sex scenes that seem gratuitous, not contributing much to moving the story to its conclusion. VERDICT Shortlisted for both the 2010 Guardian First Book Award and the 2011 Desmond Elliott Prize, this book will appeal to readers of offbeat fiction, especially those with an interest in the World War II era.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Many adjectives come to mind when describing Beauman's debut novel, but "strange" surely applies. Readers may feel compelled to shower after taking in this satiric tale (both funny and repellent) of fascism, eugenics, boxing, entomology, sex and murder.
Kevin Broom suffers from trimethylaminuria, a rare genetic condition that makes him smell like rotten fish, so he mostly spends his days in his London flat collecting Nazi memorabilia online. But he stumbles on a crime scene that takes the story back to the 1930s with Hitler in ascendance and some British holding him in awe. Broom learns about a five-foot-tall, nine-toed, hard-drinking Jewish homosexual boxer, appropriately named "Sinner" Roach, whose death in the 1930s is even uglier than his life. A eugenicist who wants to study him has previously focused on insects to learn whether he can breed undesirable traits out of them. (Think Aryan beetles.) The story wonderfully mocks eugenics and fascism, while the writing bursts with imaginative metaphors. For example: "Silkstone was a cheerful burly man whose laughter could have torn the stitches out of a straitjacket." Or: "Twelve-year-old Millicent had so many freckles that Erskine wondered if she had stolen some from other children."Unfortunately, the novel has no oases of sanity or likability, no character to care about or wish well. Millicent likes to burst into a room and breathlessly accuse people of perverse sex acts, but no one pays attention to her since she doesn't even understand her own words. Meanwhile, who cares whether Broom solves the mystery or whether Erskine unearths the secrets of racial purity or whether Sinner will become the flyweight boxing champion. Who cares who is buggering whom, and in what graphic detail?The only truly interesting question is how Sinner dies.
If Franz Kafka had a sense of humor, perhaps he would have written a book like this one: quirky, comical, brilliant and, somehow, ultimately disagreeable.