What do you get when a poet, an overweight billionaire, a military-engineered werewolf and a chef encounter one another? Not the beginning of a joke but the seemingly outlandish premise of The Conspiracy Kid by E.P. Rose.
The above-mentioned poet, Edwin Mars, creates the character of The Conspiracy Kid to make known the message of the poem ‘The Conspiracy Kid Fan Club’ that opens the novel. The crux of this poem is that if you read it, you are automatically and irreversibly inducted in the fan club. With an introduction that reads as though it were a ‘forward this to 15 friends or an undead girl will kill you in your sleep’ email circa the early-mid-Noughties, the foundation of this novel feels shaky and apprehensive.
To fill this fan club, Rose fashions a hefty cohort of distinctly colourful characters: Edwin, the author of the poem, in love with his friend’s wife Colleen, whose sudden death leaves Edwin feeling adrift; Richard, his son, who is in love with Colleen’s daughter Iris with whom he shares a passion for all things American; Iris’s sister Muriel, an aspiring chef with dreams of opening her own restaurant and finally there’s Joe Claude, an eccentric billionaire whose relationship with his possibly lesbian wife is so strained she suggests he get himself a mistress.
One would think that a veritable web of personalities would surely lead to comical clashes and meaningful storylines. Though, despite the quirky and outlandish nature of the story, the characters’ dispositions are believable and authentic. The one exception to this is Joe Claude, whose story never really develops and whose primary function is to serve as springboard for other characters to react to.
The ending resembles a deflating balloon with residual honks whimpering as it dies. It is disappointing with poor attempts by Rose to tie up loose ends. Persevering through this novel is a persistent task for what could have been an entertaining, engaging romp with an uncommon storyline.
For the most part, The Conspiracy Kid is almost stuffed to bulging with potential. Each character dances into the reader’s imagination with delicate finesse but their raison d’etre towards driving the story lacks evocative execution. However, I felt that The Conspiracy Kid is a story that never really begins.