River Heights Book Review

The books you'll want to read.

HEADS YOU LOSE by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Okay, you got us – this isn’t a new release. But our mission here at the River Heights Book Review is to introduce you to books you’ll want to read, and sometimes that means covering older gems you may have missed. Heads You Lose is one such gem.

heads-you-lose-coverHEADS YOU LOSE by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
April 5, 2011

Sibling pot farmers Paul and Lacey Hansen lead a pretty quiet life – or, at least, they did, until the decapitated corpse showed up in their backyard. The duo isn’t sure to whom the body belongs (belonged?), but they can’t exactly call the police, so they do what any rational people in their situation would do: they relocate the problem and leave it for someone else to find.

That should be that. But then the (ever-ripening) carcass reappears in front of their house, and Paul and Lacey are forced to admit that this is a situation they’re going to have to face head-on. (Yeah, I went there.)

Heads You Lose is a murder mystery. More importantly, though, it’s also the tale of two exes (Lisa Lutz and David Hayward) collaborating to write said murder mystery. At the project’s outset, the pair agrees to alternate chapters (with Lutz writing the odd-numbered chapters and Hayward writing the even) and to refrain from doing any outlining. That, it turns out, is all on which they can agree, as is evidenced by their hilariously antagonistic email exchanges (featured at the end of each chapter), the sniping editorial footnotes the two append to each other’s work, and some epic acts of authorial sabotage. If the Editor’s Note is to be believed, when the book was finished, the authors refused to come together on revisions, so the manuscript was published in its original form. As the Note says, “[w]hile unorthodox in structure, it is nevertheless a novel. It just happens to tell more stories than either author intended.” Indeed, Possibly Fictional Editor – indeed.

Lutz and Hayward’s collaborative efforts are endlessly entertaining; watching the two of them battle for control over the plot will fill you with a perverse glee, and every time you stumble across an in-story pot-shot, you’ll feel like you’ve won a game of literary Where’s Waldo? But the mystery they’ve crafted is remarkably satisfying, as well. The character work is top-notch. The dialogue is sharp, snarky, and full of wit. The pacing is inexplicably perfect. While the plot is wild and woolly and takes more turns than a driver at Indy, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t hang together perfectly, and the ending is nothing short of genius.

Heads You Lose succeeds on every level. If you haven’t read this book, you should do so immediately; it’s not too late to join the fan club. And if have read this book, you should drop everything and do so again; it’s no less joyful a read the second (or third) time around.


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This entry was posted on June 14, 2015 by in Crime Fiction, Reviews and tagged , , , , .
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