Suburban Dicks

Sure, modern crime fiction has an abundance of idiosyncratic female detectives, but how many of them show up at the murder site in a minivan transporting four children, one of whom urinates all over the crime scene? So begins Fabian Nicieza's ceaselessly funny debut novel, Suburban Dicks, in which characters' wisecracks cushion a painful reckoning with the prejudices running amok in a New Jersey town.

Queens girl-turned-suburbanite Andrea Stern, who is ostentatiously pregnant with her fifth child, isn't looking for drama the morning she rushes into a West Windsor, N.J., gas station; she's looking for a bathroom for her youngest child. Unlike the incompetent cops on the scene, Andrea determines that the killer tried to make the murder of gas station attendant Satkunananthan Sasmal look like a random shooting. Andrea is no stranger to crime solving: she was planning to attend a graduate program with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit when she got pregnant with her first child. The fatal shooting of Sasmal, an immigrant from India, is West Windsor's first murder in more than 30 years, but the town's Asian community has been feeling victimized for ages. Andrea teams up with disgraced local journalist Kenneth Lee in the hunt for the killer.

Suburban Dicks is a well-oiled mystery, throughout which stereotypes fly from the mouths and pollute the minds of even well-meaning characters trying to get to the bottom of Sasmal's murder and the decades-old crime it points to. Nicieza, co-creator of Marvel's Deadpool, has set out to expose prejudice in all its hairy, shattering guises, and in so doing, he never fails to find a laugh where it hurts. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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