Review: Fickle by Peter Manus

Fickle by Peter Manus is a twisting noir mystery that Booklist calls, “An incredibly daring novel and a complete success.” (Available January 17, 2017)

A blogger who goes by I.G. Fickel (yes, that’s how she spells it) tells her followers that she has witnessed a man commit suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train. At first, the followers assume she is either alluding to a noir classic or may be starting a new story they will work on together. After all, that’s what the blog is for.

Fickel convinces them this is not fiction and posts that she was interviewed by two police detectives. The followers try to give her advice, tell her to get a lawyer, and warn her to stay out of the investigation. Fickel dismisses the idea as she knows she is innocent.

The friendlier of the two detectives shows up at her office. Fickel uses descriptive aliases for all the players in this case. The rules of her blog state that no one can use their real name or anything that will identify them in real life.

Burly-Bear: So we have some information on our jumper and we’d like your help, again.

Me: (a little thrown) My help?

Burly-Bear: Correct. We’d like you to take a look at something, actually.

Me: Not the body. (Then, after a blush) Sorry.

Burly-Bear: No. Not the body.

Me: Well, then what?

Burly-Bear: We want you to take a look at the guy’s apartment.

Me: (surprised) Why?

Burly-Bear: (cagey) Something interesting there we’d like to show you.

Me: (Waiting for him to clarify. He waits, too, then finally gets that I have all day.)

Burly-Bear: Last night you said that you didn’t know the deceased.

Me: I said that, yes.

Burly-Bear: Thing is, seems like maybe you did.

Of course, if Fickel took her followers’ advice, we would not have a book. She reports on following evidence further down the rabbit hole. New players are introduced. The situation worsens. All with a Greek Chorus of followers. Some cheer her on. Others become increasingly alarmed. There are even a few newbies on the blog throwing in their two cents. 

Meanwhile, a new blog is introduced: Full Frontal: Existentialism Engorged. Full Frontal is also the author’s screen name. As the title indicates, this is not a polite blog about kitty cats. Full Frontal alleges he was on the train that killed Mr. Suicide, as Fickel calls him. His story differs from hers, and he appears to be more than a little interested in her. 

eddielizzaed @ 01.23 03:59 am

Righteous post, man. See the killer chick after?

fullfrontal @ 01.23 04:11 am

talking with a cop. Plays it meek and trembly, now that she’s done killing for the day. then she walks to central square. chick glides through this ice storm like she’s a farking vampire. lives in a dump. scored some doobie on her street, tho.

losmuiertos @ 01.23 04:38 am

you followed her?

fullfrontal @ 01.23 04:44 am

how else am I going to know where she lives, brainiac?

So, who is telling the truth? Do I find Fickel more believable because we’re both female? Because her writing is smoother? Or is it because Full Frontal is so misogynistic, even misanthropic?

I have to admit, I was skeptical when I saw that the book was nothing but blog posts. I thought it would be a tedious read. Not at all. The writing and plot pulled me along with Fickel and friends. Fickel’s and Full Frontal’s main posts give more exposition, which helped paint their pictures. But even the comments of all the followers draw rough sketches of them as well. Peter Manus had me vacillating between believing Fickel and doubting all she wrote right up until the end.

The author uses this format to explore some of the important questions of our time. How do we tell truth from fiction? Who should we trust? Not only in real life but online. Especially online, where one can hide behind avatars and screen names. Is someone your friend because you like the same books? Because you’ve “spoken” to each other for a year or more? Because they write supportive things?

Days after finishing this book, I’m still pondering it. I’ve even gone back to check a few things. Not many stories have that effect on me. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.


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Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo's Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel.

Read all of Debbie Meldrum's posts for Criminal Element!


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