by Christopher Moore



304pp/$23.00/April 1999

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Cover by Michael McGurl

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

While The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove doesn't have quite as many laugh-out-loud lines as Christopher Moore's earlier novels, it is a more focused satire, taking on the psychiatric profession of Pine Cove, California (site of Moore's earlier Practical Demonkeeping).  This isn't to say that The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove doesn't scatter its barbs far and wide, for Moore is more than happy to also attack and enshrine the blues, police, B-movie actresses and Godzilla films.

Pine Cover doesn't know what's hit it after the suicide of Bess Leander.  Bess's psychiatrist, Val Riordn, deciding the death was her fault, chooses to replace all her patient's medications with placeboes just as blues singer Catfish Jefferson shows up at the Head of the Slug Saloon to reinforce the citizens' depressions.  Into this depressed mess stumbles Steve, the near-sighted, confused and horny "lust lizard" of the title.  The sea monster also gives off a sort of pheromone which heightens the sexual urge in most of the Pine Cove population.

As with all of Moore's novels, the book is much better than a brief synopsis, or the title, would suggest.  Moore character's are all real people with a variety of problems, however odd.  The resident Crazy Woman, former B-movie queen Molly Michon may be one of the most sane people living in Pine Cove, and even she has her mental problems.  Theophilus Crowe, whose problem is his marijuana addiction, not his name, demonstrates the ability to grow beyond the simple stereotypes Moore initially paints him with.

There are a variety of issues discussed in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, beginning with responsibility and moving through sexual hang-ups and relationships, but the main reason to read this novel is for the humor which Moore brings to the page.   Some of the funniest lines belong to Skinner, the dog who refers to his master as "Food Guy" and has the uncanny canine ability to simplify life into categories of happy or dangerous or hungry.

Moore includes more sex in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove than in his previous novels.  While most of the action is off scene, his descriptions are suggestive enough that the novel may be offensive for some readers.  While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a departure from Moore's earlier books and may catch the reader off guard.

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove shows how far Moore has come since he published Practical Demonkeeping, which his publisher has recently re-released.   His humor may be a bit more toned down, but his characterization and writing style flows better than it did when he was first beginning.

On a tangential note, Moore needs to reconsider his titles.  While all of his novels are highly entertaining, the more recent titles, Island of the Sequined Love Nun and the current book, are just as highly off-putting.   When asked what one is reading, the reader doesn't want to have to preface their answer by sheepishly saying, "It's a really funny book and his other books are great, but the title is. . . ."

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