by Bruce TierneyFebruary, 2005
Mystery of the month
The BookPage Tip of the Ice Pick Award goes to Prague-based author Robert Eversz for the fourth installment in his Nina Zero series, Digging James Dean. "Nina Zero" is the nom de lens of an outsider paparazzo, a Generation-X con out on parole after her (mostly) unwitting role in an airport bombing. She drives a Cadillac ragtop of "a certain age" (that is to say, one with prominent tail fins) and travels in the company of an uncharacteristically friendly (and toothless) Rottweiler. Perhaps you will remember the Raelians, the quasi-religious organization that popped up in the news a few years back, fronted by a strange collagen-enhanced spokesperson, citing our extraterrestrial origins and claiming to have cloned the first human baby? How much of a leap would it be to find their spiritual successors robbing the graves of Hollywood superstars, using the retrieved DNA to clone such timeless heartthrobs as Marilyn Monroe, Rudolph Valentino or the aforementioned James Dean? Once this would have been the province of science fiction novels, bad science fiction novels at that, but these days the prospect is not nearly so far-fetched. Still, it would require some seriously spaced out wackos to dig that first grave, and Eversz has provided a cast of misguided villains well up to the task: The Church of Divine Thespians (one charismatic leader and a gaggle of strays, runaways and Hollywood hangers-on as acolytes). Nina's photojournalistic intrusion is highly unwelcome, and she soon finds herself smack in the middle of trouble. Digging James Dean is amply populated with the sort of people you'd expect to find in a nuthouse, or, well, Southern California. Eversz pokes fun at L.A. eccentricity, religious cults and inept authorities in equal measure; no cow is too sacred for his sharpened pencil. And Nina Zero is cooler than ever, in fact, cooler than any of us will ever be.