The Big Rewind – Libby Cudmore

Big RewindI am beyond thrilled to announce that our own Glam Geek Girl has published her first novel, The Big Rewind! Now, if any of you are even remotely more astute than an average Fox News viewer, you might have already noticed that a) I know the author, b) I didn’t immediately call for her to be boiled alive in a tub of Velveeta and c) I linked to the best place to find the book, and you’ll probably be correct in assuming that the odds of me saying the book is terrible are about the same as C-3PO declaring his undying love for Han Solo in the next Star Wars movie (although considering the quality of The Force Awakens, I suppose that’s not out of the realm of possibility.) That’s what’s called “killing the tension.” As a writer, it makes as much sense to do that as to film Girls Gone Wild at an AARP convention; you might as well not go in if you already know there’s nothing you need to see. But even if you don’t decide to trust a review that I swear isn’t as biased as an autobiography of Kanye West, you should give the book a chance. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you either enjoy pithy quips and witty observations about the world, or you’re a chronic masochist hell-bent on destroying yourself with my lame humor. Either way, consider this quote from the first paragraph of The Big Rewind:

Six months ago a Swiss Colony Christmas catalog had arrived on the first chilly breath of fall, and I devoured it with the intensity of a teenage boy on his first porn site.

All I’m saying is you might like the way Ms. Cudmore writes.

Libby Cudmore

The woman herself is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma, then dipped in chocolate and wrapped in a brightly decorated tinfoil wrapper and put on display on the impulse rack at your local grocery store.

The book opens with a murder—a good move on the part of a mystery novel. The story opens with Jett Bennett, a trendy young woman doing temp work for a private investigator firm and living in a neighborhood with a serious infestation of hipsters. Jett finds a mix tape meant for her friend and neighbor, KitKat, thusly named because someone clearly broke them off a piece…of her head…with a rolling pin, leaving Jett to discover the body. (Cue the waterworks of disingenuous, mourning hipsters all queuing up to claim they loved KitKat before she was cool.) KitKat’s sister humbly requests that Jett solve the murder. It’s kind of like asking your friend who works the information desk at the hospital to look at that thing growing out of your foot; having neither money nor patience to do things properly tends to drive down the qualifications of the professional help you seek. (Or, at least, that’s what Lucy told me when I paid her for psychiatric help.) So Jett dives into the only clue she has, the mix tape, and begins to delve into the sick and twisted mind of a . . . well, not a murderer, but at least someone who would send a bunch of re-recorded songs to someone hoping they can pull out the exact same interpretation of a message probably more easily expressed with a clearly written sentence or two.

I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and I’ve read a fair amount of mystery novels…possibly including the source novel for the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”…and I enjoy the challenge of trying to solve these crimes…which usually hinge on hidden motives, information withheld from the reader, or psychologically unreal characters with contrived, cockamamie ideas that put the “Alien Invasion!” ending of Watchmen to shame. But even though Butcher writes a compelling story, he and other mystery writers will handcuff themselves to the bedposts of their genre hoping for a night of kinky passion before realizing they lost the key. Most mysteries begin with a parade of informants and potential suspects, all floating by the protagonist like little boats of fish at a sushi buffet. The Big Rewind flouts these conventions, though, as Jett’s first steps on the case involve realizing that most people give or receive mix tapes at some points in their lives, and didn’t she have a box full of tapes from old boyfriends that she, herself, was having trouble moving past?

Steely Dan

After a passionate night with Steely Dan, Libby experiences a moment of regret, realizing she only did this to hurt Billy Joel. And then she really enjoyed the fact that she hurt Billy Joel.

What follows is a story reminiscent of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, in which Jett winds up reviewing her past to figure out how best to move forward with her life. By the end of the novel, I felt like I would have been satisfied if they hadn’t even solved the murder, just for the character progress made by the protagonist. They do solve the murder, but it seems to be present not for its own sake—like so many other entitled, self-indulgent mystery bastards—but to show the extreme side of mixing songs for people. (I, too, have received mix tapes that made a rolling pin upside the head seem like the better way to spend an afternoon.) Libby Cudmore clearly understands how to make her genre work for her. Instead of those passive authors who handcuff themselves to the bed and hope for the best, Cudmore dons her best leathers, hog-ties the genre, and whips it into submission until it cries out that it’ll do whatever she wants.

…and Libby, if you’re reading this…yes, I realize how awkward that mental image was.

Okay, so obviously this all smells like a good long belch after a meal of scented candles and Glade Plug-ins, and I can tell you’ll think I’m exaggerating unless I open the window and fan it all outside before the odor forces you into a coma. If I could say anything against The Big Rewind, the early chapters of the book read like Cudmore fit all her favorite songs and pop culture references into a shotgun and pelted her readers in the face, hoping to hit a soft spot. (Which she did, when she mentioned playing through Zelda II: The Adventure of Link) About 90% of the musical buckshot, though, went right past me. However, there’s a rather poignant message near the end of the book that actually requires the reader to feel that way, which makes it all the more meaningful in the long run, after you’ve picked all the references out of the craters on your face. So it makes sense as an artistic choice.

I realize I’ve been discussing this in pretty vague terms, even compared to my usual style, but it’s a freaking mystery! No spoilers! And it’s worth reading. If you do decide to pick up The Big Rewind, please consider buying it new. I know you can get it for a penny on amazon, but here’s a secret: the seller gets the $3.99 shipping charge, but because amazon charges a minimum of $1.60 in sellers fees, plus the starting rate of $2.61 for media mail, that means the big name used book stores who can afford to sell books that cheap are literally paying $0.21 per book to put other book stores out of business! And that’s the one serious thing (other than, “I liked the book”) that I’ve said today. No joke. If you buy it used, you’re supporting used book stores. If you buy it for a penny, you’re actually giving the finger to used book stores. But if you buy it new, you’d be supporting a talented, up-and-coming author who genuinely loves her career as a writer.

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