THE CONNUBIAL CORPSE by author Thomas J. Thorson is, at its core, a fairly straightforward detective story. After a Chinese college student goes missing in Chicago, there is a manhunt to try and find her. Things take a turn when the corpse of another Chinese woman, this one dressed in an immaculate wedding costume, is found in a shipping container. These two crimes intertwine with one another, as it is believed that the missing student is headed for a similar fate.
The oddity of the novel starts with the characters. The main lead is Malcolm Winters, a lovable detective, and his partner, Vinn. The opening pages let readers know right away that this story is not the first mystery involving these two. Things only move faster from there, as the case of the missing student, Lily Cheng, sees Malcolm and Vinn get involved, and do some rather questionable investigating on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. When the detectives wind up over theirs heads, they call in reinforcements from some of the weirdest characters in the history of mystery fiction: a tough-talking and hard-charging businessman who dresses as a woman after work; a U.S. government source who wears a mask of Vladimir Putin in order to conceal their identity; a phony Cuban chef; and a dedicated if not a little naïve journalism student. The antagonists prove to be hardcore triad gangsters upset at the intrusion into their business.
THE CONNUBIAL CORPSE is a fast-paced and action-oriented mystery novel that has a plot that is simultaneously complex but not confusing. The interplay between Malcom and Vinn is reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles from his Thin Man series, as the two crimefighters are playful with one another but also work well when it counts. The other characters (and there are a lot of characters in this novel) add to the coloring, which also enjoys local seasoning courtesy of Chicago and its Chinatown district. Best of all, the story is excellent. The plot unfolds with dexterity, with each chapter revealing a new suspicion, a new suspect, or a new clue. The conclusion is rewarding because every development has been shown. The readers are not bamboozled here. Also, this book makes it clear that there are more adventures awaiting Malcolm and Vinn.
THE CONNUBIAL CORPSE is a mystery-as-entertainment, featuring a bizarre menagerie of human characters, an out-there crime, and lots of local color.
~Benjamin Welton for IndieReader