The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces
By Ray Vukcevich
First Published: 2000
Review © 2009 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Modern Fiction, Comedy, Mystery
The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces by Ray Vukcevich is a comedy detective novel with a unique twist. The main character is a detective who has multiple personalities. While this might be a hindrance for some, detective Skylight Howells has been able to get his personalities to work together (for the most part) and with his matching disguises he can transform into several different people giving him a whole team of detectives in one.
This novel begins like a parody of a Sam Spade novel with a beautiful damsel named Prudence calling on detective Skylight Howells to solve a murder where her brother is on the list of suspects. Sky already has two ongoing cases but can’t resist helping a lovely woman. Of course Prudence wants some proof that Sky is qualified for the job so she hits him up with a couple of calculus problems. Sky only hesitates a minute to call up his math and computer expert personality, Dennis, who has two degrees in computer science. It turns out that these degrees are going to come in handy for a murder mystery where the victim and the suspects are computer program developers.
Once on the case, Sky gets to work immediately by digging into his bag of disguises so that he can break into the crime scene. Should he become Scarface, Average Guy, or his female persona Lulu? Only one problem could slow him down. He has a serious tap dancing addiction. When he passes a tap dance club, he can’t resist and soon is dancing the night away, losing control until he collapses from exhaustion. Can he recover from this ordeal? Can he close in on the killer before he gets caught up tap dancing again?
The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces is a bit awkward at the outset as the reader is introduced to the many sides of Sky. But when another victim is found and a thug makes an attempt on Sky’s life, the tension and action picks up. As the mystery becomes more exciting the comedy also increases. When Sky finds the case getting really complicated, he decides he needs to get all his personalities talking together to in order to come up with some new insights. The easiest way to do this seems to be setting up an on-line chat room where he can have different animated icons for each of his personalities. Soon Sky is embroiled in a mad conversation with several highly opinionated personalities.
Vukcevich fills this novel with humor and witty dialog. The internal discussions between Sky’s multiple personalities are carried out surprisingly well through various devices such as the chat room. With multiple characters contained within Sky and a humorous pair of local cops, there is plenty of opportunity for comedy. Some of the comedy is quite silly, such as the dancing addiction, but half way through the book I found myself laughing out loud and this occurred more frequently as the story progressed.
The mystery portion of this novel is also done well. The mystery keeps the reader guessing as more layers are gradually revealed. New twists and connections are discovered right up to the end so you don’t need to worry about figuring out who the killer is half way through the novel.
The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces is lighthearted detective novel with a fun multiple personality premise. It’s currently out of print but is worth the effort of tracking down a copy.