The town psychiatrist has decided to switch everybody in Pine Cove, California, from their normal antidepressants to placebos, so naturally—well, to be accurate, artificially—business is booming at the local blues bar. Trouble is, those lonely slide-guitar notes have also attracted a colossal sea beast named Steve with, shall we say, a thing for explosive oil tanker trucks. Suddenly, morose Pine Cove turns libidinous and is hit by a mysterious crime wave, and a beleaguered constable has to fight off his own gonzo appetites to find out what's wrong and what, if anything, to do about it.
Reading a Christopher Moore novel is a little like eating a potato chip--it's hard to stop at just one. And you don't have to look beyond the titles to understand the allure; who could pass up a book called Practical Demonkeeping or Island of the Sequined Love Nun? Each of Moore's tales skewers a particular literary genre. In Coyote Blue he nailed New Age fascination with Native American religion; in Blood-Sucking Fiends: A Love Story he put a new twist on the classic vampire tale. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove is a companion piece to his first novel, the hilariously twisted horror story Practical Demonkeeping, and readers of that book will recognize the setting, Pine Cove, California. In addition, Moore includes plenty of his patented weird sex, occasional gross-out death, several off-kilter but nonetheless affecting love stories, and some fabulous secondary characters such as Mavis Sand: Mavis first began augmenting her parts in the fifties, first out of vanity: breasts, eyelashes, hair. Later, as she aged and the concept of maintenance eluded her, she began having parts replaced as they failed, until almost half of her body weight was composed of stainless steel (hips, elbows, shoulders, finger joints, rods fused to vertebrae five through twelve), silicon wafers (hearing aids, pacemaker, insulin pump), advanced polymer resins (cataract replacement lenses, dentures), Kevlar fabric (abdominal wall reinforcement), titanium (knees, ankles), and pork (ventricular heart valve). In a nutshell, the plot revolves around a gigantic prehistoric lizard whose slumber deep beneath the ocean surface is interrupted by a radioactive leak from a nearby power plant. At the same time, a woman in Pine Cove hangs herself; the local psychiatrist (who has been prescribing antidepressants to everyone in town with gay abandon) decides the suicide was her fault and yanks everyone's medication; and an elderly black blues singer named Catfish Jefferson arrives to perform at the Head of the Slug saloon. Into this already strange brew mix one schizoid former B-movie starlet, a pot-head town constable, a bereaved local artist, a biologist tracking anomalous behavior in rats, a crooked sheriff, and a pharmacist with a bizarre sexual fixation on sea mammals, and you have a recipe for the kind of madness Moore does so well. --Alix Wilber