Hat Check by David F. Berens is an eye-opening funny but not quite hilarious romp through a field of dysfunctional characters. They are not maliciously dysfunctional, there is no intention to cheat and defraud others; it is that they act weird in response to events as they occur. Characters don’t seem to plan anything. Stuff just happens. I got the impression that the author created a bunch of characters, put them in a bunch of ridiculous situations then threw the book in the corner for a while. After some indeterminate period, Berens retrieved the novel and wrote transition events so that the characters all had some connected role in the final product. This is just my impression and I really liked the final product. I was amused and chuckled most of the way through the novel.
Characters reveal the story through a variety of language registers that I thought artful. I could hear the southern twang of the twins Ellie May and Daisy Mae as they expressed their outrage at what life had served up to them. The criminals Man’ti and Darren “The Body” McGlashen act out a hilarious contrast. Supposedly partners, Man’ti frequently thinks of killing Darren while proceeding to steadily, step-by-step, disassemble him. I haven’t encountered a character that has lost so many body parts since Catch 22. Berens makes this humorously absurd.
Troy is an old, laid back, cool guy of forty plus years old. He also presents himself with a southern accent, one less severe than the twins who are pursuing him because they consider him a baby daddy. He just takes things as they come, involving himself in relationships as opportunities present themselves. And he has a hat, one he found that happens to please him more than the cap which had long been his standard wear. If a hat could be a protagonist, that would be the case here. Absent that, Troy is a principal in this story. Having said that, keep your eye on the hat.
There are criminals and dead criminals and money laundering. There is at least one hairy government conspiracy. If you read the novel, you will recognize the pun I am trying to make. There is, by necessity, a lot of blood and violence, most associated with Darren but a few other characters will give up the ghost seemingly at the convenience of the author. There is no realized or consummated sex, just a bunch of characters who are thinking about it. The thoughts are not presented in an offensive way.
This novel is, simply, fun. Characters do not make a lot of puns, but I thought the level of humor throughout the novel was at the level of a pun. Some consider puns to be the lowest form of humor. OK. I have found my level and will happily read these novels as a counter to the horrible realities presented daily from CNN and similar reality shows. I am willing to spend the USD 0.99 on Amazon to appreciate a different set of absurdities. I gave this four (plus) Amazon stars.