LDB Publishing, 2009
196 Pages, Mystery/Satire
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
I’m a huge fan of British humor and especially love a good Britcom. I’ve spent hours and hours laughing and rolling my eyes at Rowan Atkinson’s Black Adder, seen every episode of Simon Pegg’s Spaced, stumbled upon the goofy My Hero and own several DVDs of the legendary Benny Hilly and Monty Python. When I learned about Chris Wood’s Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death I chuckled at the title’s humorous take on the famous detective but wondered if the book would make a mockery of Holmes or be a solid and honest tribute.
The story is completely ridiculous and perfectly captures the witty and outrageous style of Monty Python-style British humor. While not familiar with the lore of Sherlock Holmes and having limited exposure to the renowned character, my unschooled perspective meant I would not be able to pick up on any inaccuracies or inconsistencies. But it also meant that this story was fresh.
It is a nonsensical book that does not take itself seriously and this is both the book’s biggest strength and also its biggest weakness. The prose is incredibly witty and the humor is the main attraction, not only pushing the mystery and plot into the backseat, but detaining it and holding it there with a foot to the throat. This is more shtick than story and within the hodgepodge of never-ending bathroom jokes there are some gems: “as enjoyable as farting quietly in a crowded room” as well as some new terminology, “a Guinness streamer.” Most enjoyable was the army of suicide-bombing chickens who were basted with onion and sage before sent on their mission.
This is probably not the type of book to be read in large chunks but in snippets – waiting for the bus, during a commercial break or most appropriately, on the toilet. It’s a lot of fun but it expects you to tolerate an avalanche of poop jokes. If scat is your thing and you’re a fan of dysfunctional human digestive systems then you will love this book. If you’re a fan of British humor or humor books in general this will help you pass the time but it is probably not something I’d recommend to fans of Sherlock Holmes.
My hat’s off to Chris Wood (one of England’s least distinguished writers) for writing some very thoughtful and witty humor and I wonder what else this author has in store. He has a talented comedic mind and I’m interested to see what he can do when he’s not dealing in fart jokes but a more sophisticated type of humor. Underpants of Death is a good effort and succeeds in introducing the warped mind of Chris Wood and making me wonder what he’ll do next.
Strengths: incredibly witty, sharp prose
Opportunities: heavy on the dirty jokes, light on the story
Will appeal to: fans of satire, Brit humor and all things poop
Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death is available on amazon.com.
Check out Chris Wood’s blog.
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, July 2009.