Breakfast at Cannibal Joe's
Jay Spencer Green
You’re not assigned to oversee a CIA front company in Dublin unless you screwed up royally – and Joe Chambers did. If he didn’t know so much about so many people, the CIA would probably terminate him – possibly in both senses of the word. Instead, he’s stuck managing Whetstone Publishing while his stateside boss comes up with ever more daft ways to maximize profits.
But Joe’s frustration is only just beginning. An MI6 agent keeps breaking into his apartment and stealing his booze, presumably revenge for blowing the guy's cover in Athens; his publishing assistant’s too smart for her own good; and with head office’s cost-cutting measures hitting new highs of lunacy, he might need to start selling drugs or – God forbid! – move back to the States. Oh, and he’s got a tapeworm named Steve happily curled up in his guts.
A raucous mix of double crosses, brothels, triple crosses, and cocktail recipes, Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s is a dark and twisted tale that fans of Catch-22 and Fight Club should love.
Bonkers. Weird. Surreal. Satirical. Politically incorrect. Clever. Absurd. Witty. Disgusting. I didn’t know which to start with, so there they all are. If you are at all offended by drugs, gratuitous sex and swearing, I’d give this book a miss. Happily, I am made of sterner stuff and continued reading past the first page (on which you will find the first of many instances of gratuitous sex and swearing; the drugs come later).
The writing is very good. The editing and proofreading are very good. The story is … mad. It is set in an exaggeratedly broken near future Dublin, and narrated in first-person simple past by an American CIA employee who has been moved to Ireland to keep him out of trouble, where he is finding the life suits him very well, thank you very much, and goes to rather extreme lengths to make sure he is kept there and not called back to the USA. He spends much of the book appearing to be not very bright and totally missing the obvious. How he was ever a spy is a bit of a mystery.
The references to the title and cover are quite fleeting (disgusting, but fleeting), and highlight the problem of the over-spent and out-of-control Ireland of the story. I’ll say no more, but you might want to give those rashers and bangers a miss from now on.
Not one of the characters is likeable – some are downright abhorrent, others merely loathsome. But that’s OK. All chapters start with a recipe for increasingly unpalatable cocktails, and all end with “extracts” from papers and magazines from the story’s present, which highlight and exaggerate the wacky and bizarre world the book is set in.
There are a couple of places where I felt the humour was a little forced and a couple of places where actions don’t quite fit the story. But these are minor quibbles against such intricate plotting. (I only hope Jay isn’t a write-what-you-know author.)
On his website, Jay mentions several books that Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s has been likened to, only two of which I’ve read and that was so long ago I can’t remember them. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine this being similar to any book; it is refreshingly and fabulously unique. Although I was frequently reminded of Pat Fitzpatrick’s book Keep Away from those Ferraris, which I’ve reviewed (and enjoyed) – most probably because it too is satirical, set in Dublin and leans towards drugs, gratuitous sex and swearing (and has a similar style of writing to my mind, although a different storyline). The setting could be any city, so if you don’t know Dublin, don’t be put off.
The story is fast-paced, easy to be drawn into and irresistible. It’s hard to say who it will appeal to, although Jay says if you like Catch-22 and Fight Club you will like this. I read the first many mind-erasing moons ago and I haven’t read the second, so I can’t comment. Just give it a go, why don’t you? And let me know what you think.
Editorial Input & Design
This has clearly had professional input and is a polished product. If I’d been editing it, there are a few sentences I might have suggested getting rid of, and I would have liked to have seen the fight scene near the end expanded. Some of the “quotes” at the ends of chapters are a tad long and I would have preferred them all to have been kept short and sweet. But these are all personal preferences.
It’s a nicely designed cover and well drawn, but not very appealing to someone who has been a vegetarian for thirty years. (That would be me.)
I read this on a Kindle and had no problems. It all flows very well.
Book Clubs & Reviews
Hmm. There would be plenty to discuss, but I’m not sure you’d get all the members to finish the book! Drinks and nibbles? I can’t even.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.7 stars (6 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it 5 stars (1 reviewer); Goodreads readers give it 5 stars (1 rating).
None yet, but let me know if I’ve missed them and I will add here.