Cleverly presented as a series of blog entries, author Graham Parke’s debut novel, No Hope For Gomez!, chronicles the experiences of Gomez Porter. Being rather unsuccessful at running the antiques store he inherited from his parents, primarily because he knows absolutely nothing about antiques, Gomez decides to earn some extra cash by participating in an experimental drug trial.
As part of the trial, Gomez is instructed to keep a detailed blog of his daily activities and experiences, especially anything strange he notices. One thing in particular that Gomez notices, though he doesn’t find it at all strange, is how attracted he is to Dr. Hargrove, the scientist running the drug trial. In fact, he develops a mad crush on her and decides to devote all his time to winning her affection.
Dr. Hargrove, however, is already being stalked by someone so Gomez becomes her stalker’s stalker in order to determine the stalker’s identity and prove himself to Hargrove. Which he does, and an incredibly awkward romance ensues.
Things take a turn for the strange, if not downright disturbing, when one of Gomez’s fellow drug trial participants turns up dead, and shortly thereafter the detective investigating the case goes missing. Dr. Hargrove assures Gomez that the drugs being used in the trial had nothing to do with the death, but when yet another participant dies Gomez believes he has no choice but to go off the grid and investigate for himself in order to get to the bottom of things.
Interspersed throughout Gomez’s romance and investigation are the laugh-out-loud funny interactions he has with his decidedly left-of-center downstairs neighbor, Warren, an aspiring novelist, Hicks, the antiques store’s sole employee, who has a “pathological fear of all things unpunctual” (At one point Gomez becomes so frustrated with Hicks’ bizarre behavior that he puts him up for auction on eBay.), and the parade of oddball customers who frequent the antiques store.
Since it is known that Gomez is participating in an experimental drug trial, the reader is often left to wonder whether what is being relayed in his blog entries is real or the product of some drug-induced hallucination. After all, he can’t possibly have actually heard Warren stir-frying hamsters in an enameled wok… can he? And surely no one really came into his antiques store wearing a three-piece suit accessorized with sandals and a sombrero covered in “I love pasteurized milk!” stickers, right?
No Hope For Gomez! is one of the most delightfully odd books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. It’s part humor, part mystery, part romance and entirely original. It was, in fact, like getting sucked into an alternate reality called Gomezland, and what a wonderful world to visit it was! I won’t spoil the book’s ending by telling you whether or not there’s ultimately hope for Gomez, but I can tell you that I most definitely hope for more books from Parke in the future.
No Hope For Gomez! is available from Outskirts Press (ISBN: 978-1432752484).