May 15, 2011


by Bill Kirton
137 pages (Kindle Edition), PfoxChase

Review by Melissa Conway

Full disclosure: the author of The Sparrow Conundrum, Bill Kirton, is an esteemed Booksquawk contributor. He provided me with a free ebook copy for this review.

In his college days, Chris Machin rather accidently got involved with the mob. Astonished to find himself entangled with a woman way out of his league, he blindly obeyed her every wish and soon found himself muling drugs for the Bellazzo brothers. Now Machin’s garden has exploded and the hapless school teacher is paying for his past indiscretions—and the currency is loyalty to the Bellazzo’s main competition: The Cage.

A criminal organization with its fingers in the oil business, The Cage is run like any other company, with incomprehensible layers of bureaucratic nonsense and only a few cognizant employees doing any actual work. Due to the inherent secrecy involved, everyone in The Cage has an avian code-name. Eagle, a displaced Texan with a “hands-off management” style, is in charge…sort of. His two second-in-commands, Hawk and Kestrel, spend most of their time vying for Eagle’s favor—even if it means they must accommodate his unsavory proclivities.

Machin is the Sparrow of the title, and his role in the story is similar to that of a leaf carried along in a trickle of water that becomes a fast-flowing stream that branches into a raging river. In the course of trying to figure out who blew up his garden, Machin is confronted by a psychopathic detective, runs into his shady ex-girlfriend and her pro-wrestler goons and is unknowingly targeted by his own mailman. All the while, except for the ridiculous things that keep happening to him, he’s unaware of the machinations of those struggling for power within The Cage.

The writing is crisp and clever, and author Bill Kirton flawlessly handles multiple perspectives. We bounce, sometimes rapidly, from viewpoint to viewpoint like an intense game of ping pong; but we are never in doubt as to whose (sometimes disturbing, but often amusing) thoughts we’re privy to.

Kirton has a gift for characterization, although I must say the people that run around in this book have such exaggerated personalities they are arguably more caricature than character. And run around they do, like headless chickens (avian pun intended), with desperate, narcissistic urgency, their personal needs and desires at the forefront of the decisions they make. This makes for a rollicking ride, as mishaps and mayhem pile up as thick as the bodies.

The Sparrow Conundrum is a very smart, very funny read.

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