Paul Theroux's publishers market his new book as a comic-mystery-thriller. It's comic, but it's not new and the only mystery is why the publisher doesn't hawk it as satire.
Originally published in the U.K. in 1969 when Theroux was 28, "Murder in Mount Holly" parodies the American political fringe at a time when flags burned, hippies protested and commies lurked everywhere.
When Herbie Gneiss' forgettable dad croaks, his mother cons him into quitting college and supporting her, although Herbie's never worked a day in his life. It's going to take heaps of dough just to keep Mom supplied with the chocolates and potato chips (dipped in ice cream) she devours while watching TV all day.
Soon, Herbie rents a room from Miss Ball, whose other tenant, Mr. Gibbon, a sexagenarian veteran of three wars, sees pinko and black conspiracies everywhere.
Gibbon works at Kant-Brake Toys, where Herbie lands a job. But lickety-split, Herbie's drafted. Gibbon, Mrs. Gneiss and Miss Ball decide to become patriots by fighting the You-Know-Whos who are in cahoots to destroy the country. They're sure the dark-skinned man who runs the local bank is a conspirator. So this elderly trio of oddball, halfwit Yankee Doodlers concoct a scheme to rob the bank, a patriotic exploit that will make them heroes, since the bank is a "Communist Front Organization filled with black pinkoes."
Some of the humor can be off-putting and various epithets will make you cringe, but you'll have little difficulty inserting today's fringe characters into Theroux's lampoon.