There’s an informal, oft-used British expression ‘taking the piss‘ which denotes something that can appear serious on the surface while perhaps being the exact opposite–though sometimes it might be hard to tell. Mark A. Henry’s wild tale LACKING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY: A Lowbrow Novel of Questionable Necessity fits squarely into this category. While labeled ‘humor,’ the novel is less laugh-out-loud funny than ironic farce. It can produce a chuckle here or there at the very absurdity of the subject matter, though it is also prone towards make readers think, maybe even deeply, about the author’s underlying message.
In a nutshell, the plot revolves around the world’s current obsession with an ongoing War On Terror and potential terrorists who may be lurking behind every bush. Or, at least it’s up to tasked agencies such as the FBI to make it appear that this is so by apprehending some terrorists regularly. Added to the pot is how difficult it can then be–in this kind of political climate especially–to clear one’s name should such agencies take it into their collective and highly interconnected heads that they’ve perhaps discovered a heretofore unknown terrorist (or cell of terrorists!). For sheer originality, the book gets high marks, though practically-speaking the storyline jumps around so much readers may get a mild case of whiplash trying to keep track of who and where everybody is as the tale rockets along. One major flaw of the novel is a vast array of primary, secondary, and peripheral characters who mostly don’t come to fully-fleshed out, three-dimensional life, such as Dick Barry, Stanley Daniel Murphy and Francis Xavier Sullivan of the FBI, Jasper Wiles, the conveniently rich employer, etc. What with a whole host of individuals and organizations tasked with upholding the law, protecting a country, informing the public, making a buck, and of course whatever amount of real jihadists might be skulking about…well, extricating your personhood in one still-alive piece after becoming unexpectedly targeted in the midst of such pandemonium can be quite the challenge, as one young IT employee quickly finds out when he accidentally joins a group of Islamic extremists.
One wouldn’t necessarily think that a novel could light-heartedly, yet at the same time, gravely, weave tips on how to pick up girls by discussing footwear, as well as the sport of goat-fighting with a look at ramifications of the War On Terror and the Patriot Act, but Mark A. Henry’s rollicking novel LACKING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY: A Lowbrow Novel of Questionable Necessity manages to do all this and more.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader