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Serpent of Venice
Fool #2
by Christopher Moore
Wm. Morrow, $26.99, 316pp
Published: April 2014

Moore is one of the funniest and quirkiest writers ever to put fingers to keyboard.  It may not be a laugh-a-minute but one comes away with a pretty permanent quirk upwards to one’s lips.  In other words – not slapstick but some seriously deep guffaws interspersed with sincere chuckles and the unfortunate snort from time to time.

This time out, Moore continues with satirizing Shakespeare using Othello and Merchant of Venice mercilessly and even steals from Edgar Allan Poe.  Our diminutive hero, Pocket the Fool, is sent to Venice by his beloved Queen Cordelia to discourage the Venetians from funding another Crusade.  While he’s there, Queen Cordelia is poisoned and Pocket loses both influence and funds; plus his monkey, Jeff, and his poor Drool.  He accepts an invitation from a Venetian Senator to attend a wine-tasting which develops into the story of The Cask of Amontillado.  Poor Pocket spends an unfortunately long amount of time hanging inside a wall when something in the water below him takes a fancy to him.  Provided with the occasional fish and fresh water dripping on him, he survives; although not without a certain amount of the strangest shagging he’s ever had by what he supposes to be a mermaid.

Once freed of the dungeon he toys with the idea of suicide since Cordelia is dead but his nature – and a bloody ghost – lead him, instead, to revenge.  It becomes his mission to find and save both Drool and Jeff; and then – to exact heinous retribution on those who tried to kill him and, most probably, his Cordelia.  It’s all about the money, of course.  Monies that would fill pockets and coffers if Venice were to finance another war.  And that is what Pocket uses:  simple, natural greed.  And a monstrous mermaid, of course – one uses what one has, right?

There are some delightful supporting characters in this story. There is Othello, the Moor General who commands Venice’s fleet and his beloved Desdemona.  We also meet Shylock, the Jewish moneylender and his headstrong daughter, Jessica – who has aspirations of a piratical bent.  And then there are the bad guys: deeply disturbed and mad Iago, the handsome yet deeply stupid Bassanio who yearns for Portia, and the foolish and greedy Antonio.  And, because a kitchen sink didn’t really fit into the story, the author happily brought in Marco Polo, instead.  (And, no – he should not be forgiven for the heinous overuse of Polo’s name.)  Polo is the one with the key to the existence of Pocket’s mermaid and, trust me, you will not find it in any Shakespeare story although there might be a reference in The Travels of Marco Polo.

This story was a great deal more exciting and adventurous than its predecessor but a little lacking on the shagging; what with Pocket still mourning Cordelia and all.  I’m sure the author will make up the shortage in the next adventure of Pocket.  What it has in great quantities is intrigue and plotting and messing with peoples’ minds which keeps it moving so quickly that I sometimes lost track of who was shagging whom and why.

I continue to admire how Moore’s mind works and continue to be grateful for it.  He has provided much guffawing and chuckling and muttering aloud to hear what it sounds like; although I have become careful about drinking while reading to avoid the inevitable but dangerous snorting. ~~  Catherine Book

Click here for more titles by Christopher Moore

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