Cheerio lads and lasses! Today I’ve got a very different reading experience to share with you – a sort of fictional/memoir/murder mystery/magical realism mash-up. It’s The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!
In this book we are introduced to the reasonably unlikeable Raphael Ignatius Phoenix (he of the initials R.I.P.), as begins a suicide note of truly monumental proportions. You see, Raphael, at the age of almost-100 years, has decided that he has lived enough of this crazy journey called life, but before he goes, he wishes to regale us with the story of his life. And quite a life it is too, for Raphael is a murderer, many times over. He has bumped off irritating people from all walks of life and from all areas of his acquaintance. And it is by this dubious achievement that he wishes to be remembered. Alongside the stories of Raphael’s multiple murders is the story of his repeated, yet fleeting, interactions with his best friend (and only love) from childhood, Emily. So let us join Raphael as he recounts his life’s adventures and attempts to take the gold medal for longest/largest/most elaborate suicide note ever written…provided he doesn’t run out of pens, of course.
* you can easily alight upon one or more person of your acquaintance that you could have happily bumped off, for each decade of your life so far
* you believe the penalty for being an irritating git should be death
* you could think of nothing more wickedly delightful than an attempt to turn twins, who are devoted to each other, against one other
* you are a fan of the tall tale
Let me be honest. I found this book hard going. The blurb held such promise. I was intrigued to find out about multiple murders of the title character and was all set to enjoy the light-hearted manner in which they were recounted. Unfortunately, the title character is a bit of an irritating git himself, so while I did enjoy the light-hearted tone and dry wit of the first few chapters, my interest started to wane after a bit.
Essentially, this book is divided into chapters with one murder (and usually one decade of Raphael’s life) explained in each chapter. As I mentioned the early chapters – and particularly the recount of the first murder, the unfortunate Mrs Bunshop (if that is her real name) grabbed my attention and had me eagerly flipping pages. But after repeated chapters of the same sort of format, it started to seem more difficult than it needed to be to wade through Raphael’s memoirs. The very first line of the novel is this:
“This is going to be the longest suicide note in history.”
Well, he wasn’t lying there, so I suppose I can’t really complain that I hadn’t been warned about what lay ahead…but this book really felt looooooooong. In between the murders, wherein many of the interesting bits lay, are long soliloquays about the actual writing of the note – the wheres, the hows, the difficulties, the successes. To be perfectly honest, there’s only so many pages one can read about the anxiety that arises regarding the liklihood of running out of pens.
Despite my whinging, I didn’t completely hate this book. It was just okay. The chapter describing Raphael’s murder of the Albino Twins (yes, you read that correctly) had me compelled to find out how it would end. I can honestly say it was the best chapter featuring Albino Twins and their cuddly toys that I have ever read. And I mean that in a genuine, complimentary way. The ending was also, if not a high point, something completely unexpected and had me considering what light it might throw on the preceding events. (For interest’s sake, I decided that the ending came too far out of left field to really add much to the book. Pessimistic, I know).
When all is said and done, I just think I was expecting something different from what this book turned out to be. I suspect that there will be people that really love the book for its original premise and the cheeky nonchalance of Raphael, but it ended up being too much like hard work for me to really say I enjoyed it.
The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix is due for release on May 22nd.
Until next time,