Monday, September 29, 2014
Review of Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh (1996, Poisoned Pen Press )
Pest Control is a screwball noir caper set in New York that plays off a confusion of two forms of extermination -- the killing of insect infestations and contract killing by hitman -- with Bob Dillon, the hapless hero of the story working as the former but being confused with the latter. The setup is very nicely done and Fitzhugh keeps up the lightly comic riff to the final page. What I liked so much about the story is its warm, upbeat slant despite all the mayhem and madness taking place. Bob Dillon and his family are a genuinely likeable bunch and the baddies are cartoonish and fun. Fitzhugh also peppers the text with nice entomological detail about the various bugs that appear. The plot is nicely constructed and well paced, with a succession of confusions, setups, twists and turns that keep the pages turning. Sure, it’s a little overly contrived in places, but that’s the nature of screwball noirs. Overall, one of my favourite reads of the year so far and I’ll definitely be tracking other Fitzhugh books down.