By Christopher Moore

William Morrow


400pp/$18.99/May 2022


Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Christopher Moore introduced Sammy Tiffin in Noir, set in post-World War II San Francisco. In that adventure, which included Sammy trying to figure out what was going on with an army general and working with the seamier side of the city's Chinatown, Moore introduced a large group of friends to support Sammy, including a new love of his life, Stilton. Most of the characters return to offer Sammy their support in the follow-up, Razzmatazz.

It takes a little while for Razzmatazz to build up steam as Moore lays the groundwork for the novel and introduces the particular San Francisco demimonde that he'll be exploring in this novel, which is a combination of the Chinese tongs that established themselves in Chinatown in the nineteenth century and the gay and lesbian clubs that are operating just outside the law in the middle of the twentieth century. The clubs must also deal with a crackdown by the city's new head vice cop, James Dunne, known as the Mother Superior due to his attitude toward the vice that he is meant to clean up. When women who work at the city's lesbian bars begin to get killed and the community sees that Dunne isn't concerned about the murders because of the victims' proclivities, they turn to Sammy for help.

Razzmatazz is more leisurely than many of Moore's other novels, allowing the author to take his time in setting up the scene for the action, but in a way that means the humor is more understated that in most of Moore's novels. Clearly a sequel to Noir, the activities of the novel are referenced, and event impinge on the action in Razzmatazz, but in a way that makes it clear that Razzmatazz is a novel that stands on its own and can be read and enjoyed without any knowledge of the previous novel. Instead, Moore ties the events of this novel more closely to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, delving more into the roots of San Francisco's Chinatown and the characters Uncle Ho and Moo Shoes.

One of the novels strengths is that Moore is not afraid to split his characters up. Stilton and Sammy are working on different projects and having difficulties finding the time to connect, although it is clear that there relationship isn't breaking up. Just as in real life, sometimes people in a relationship have different focuses. This also lets Moore split his plot, with Sammy looking into the murders for which he has been hired and Stilton working on an angle which ties into the events of Noir without making that plot line the central plot of the novel. Eventually, both plots do come together, along with the background information regarding Chinatown and the earthquake, which provides a satisfying conclusion to the novel.

Fans of Moore's writing may miss the laugh-out-loud moments that occur in so many of his previous works with the humor in Razzmatazz being more subtle, which may help introduce Moore's work to new readers, in which case it is a welcome change of pace. However, Moore's typical humor does appear throughout the book, beginning with his prologue which describes the founding of the Chinese tongs during the Qing dynasty, which sets up so much of the Uncle Ho portion of the novel.

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