You know when you read something, and it’s fine, but you don’t know how to describe it except by rehashing its plot? Not so with Dan Rhodes’ Little Hands Clapping. This book has personality up the ying yang. What it might lack in substance, it makes up for in atmosphere and dark humour. This could just be the cover talking, but Little Hands Clapping is like a longer, grosser, Edward Gorey tale – not all that deep but packed to the rafters with whimsy and creepiness.
It didn’t take me long to get into this book. It opens with a description of a suicide museum, for gawdsake. I was instantly entertained by Rhodes’ gleefully wicked sensibilities (especially small details like the “crunch” of spiders as they’re chewed) and the way he handles a huge cast of quirky characters without slowing down the pace of the narrative. And at first, it was fun to wonder how all the different back stories would eventually be woven together.
But by the middle of the book, any reader worth her salt knows how it’s all going to go down, and the plot loses its tension. I’m not saying I wasn’t still into it, just that the book could have had a last chapter of Omigodwhatsgoingtohappen, but the opportunity was squandered by over-enthusiastic foreshadowing. I think he was trying to be mischievous by constantly reminding us how badly things were going to end for the grey-faced, long-fingered suicide museum curator and his partner in crime, Dr. Cannibal, but I think we kinda knew that already.
I keep hearing that this is not Rhodes’ best book, and I have no trouble believing that. The story may have fallen just short of being a must-re-read for me, but as a first-time Rhodes reader, I was just happy to discover an author who has such a refreshingly distinct style.
If you like your humour with a side of macabre (and a dash of dogs vomming genitalia), this is the book for you.