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The Monkey's Mask (1994)

af Dorothy Porter

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292990,749 (3.82)18
Mickey is a sweet nineteen-year-old girl, who loves poetry and poets, but has just gone missing in suspicious circumstances. Private investigator Jill Fitzpatrick is hired to find her. In her search for the truth, in what becomes a murder hunt, Jill is seduced by the alluring Diana Mailand, Mickey's former poetry professor. Plunging deep into in a dark and sleazy web of corruption and deceit, Jill comes to learn how the truth isn't always so beautiful, and killers don't like to be caught. Fuelled by homicide, betrayal, and a femme fatale to go to hell for, The Monkey's Mask is an erotic mystery novel written in verse. But forget what you know about poetry. This is not a love sonnet. From one of Australia's most innovative writers, The Monkey's Mask drives headfirst into murder, manipulation, and the consuming power of sex, and is a thriller to make other whodunnits seem mild.… (mere)
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This is an Australian lesbian erotic murder mystery written in verse.

Do I need to go on?

Yes, OK, the mystery is eminently guessable – and yes, all right, the poetry is a bit creaky in places – and yes, fine, the lesbian aesthetic is a bit 90s and worthy…but come on. It's an Australian lesbian erotic murder mystery written in verse.

Previous verse-novels I've read have been written in chapter-length running poetry. This one, by contrast, is made up of individual titled poems of a page or two each, so that reading it really does feel more like reading a poetry collection than a long poem. It's an interesting and surprisingly rewarding way of being told a story.

HER CLEVER HAND

My car cassettes clatter
at Diana's feet

“Don't you listen to boys?”

“I've spent my whole life
listening to boys.”

I answer on feminist autopilot

she crosses her legs
she's wearing a dress

I drive and perve

her calves do a silky stretch
her hand taut with blue veins

as she slots in k. d. lang

“Butch country 'n' western”
she murmurs in the raunchy riffs

“Don't you ever forget I'm a dyke?”

she slips her clever hand
between my thighs

to make me quiet.


If you're not generally a big fan of poetry, you shouldn't worry – neither is our cynical PI Jill Fitzpatrick. Much of the plot of The Monkey's Mask revolves around the Sydney poetry scene, and Porter has enormous fun pastiching the style of student poets or the kind of minor celebrities that like to wow the middle classes at public readings.

We shake hands
and I'm stuck

how do you talk to poets?

I'm not known for my love
of fluffy clouds
fields of daffodils
or brumbies on a moonlit night

give me a good bottle of wine
a woman with spit and spark
and the Trifecta at Randwick


As you can see, Porter makes good use of the Australian vernacular – there are references in here to koels, chooks, middies, and innumerable kinds of women from ‘ex-Mulawa koories / To Toorak lipstick dykes’.

I mean, there are all kind of reasons to like this, and most of the potential criticisms just feel ungenerous. For god's sake, it's an Australian lesbian erotic murder mystery written in verse. ( )
1 stem Widsith | May 7, 2018 |
This is an erotic mystery/thriller in verse and it's brilliant. I read this several years ago and loved it and after just recently having written a paper about the intersection of crime fiction and gender identity, I thought I might pick it up again for the pleasure of it.
The text is written by an Australian author and is peppered with quite a few Australianisms, but Porter has kindly provided a glossary for any of you who might need one ;).
The words flow with such intensity, and each chapter feels like a sudden intake of breath and you might find yourself trying to race the words. Read it once, quickly, follow the shotgun rhythm, then go back with a nice cup of coffee (this coming from a tea freak, no less) and lap at the words for all their cleverness and punch. ( )
1 stem jselliott | Dec 5, 2014 |
Gorgeous characterisation through the use of verse. Threw Australian culture in sharp relief to read it while over here in the UK. Found the glossary of Australian slang at the back amusing too. ( )
  aquaprofunda | Jan 1, 2014 |
This is one of the best... a novel in verse that blew away all the cobwebs for me. ( )
  IvyAlvarez | Apr 1, 2013 |
It takes a certain type of genius to think of something like this -- a lesbian, erotic mystery written wholly in verse. It takes, perhaps, a different kind of genius to bring it off without it seeming like a stunt. Yet Dorothy Porter actually has done both. ( )
1 stem jburlinson | Jan 1, 2011 |
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Mickey is a sweet nineteen-year-old girl, who loves poetry and poets, but has just gone missing in suspicious circumstances. Private investigator Jill Fitzpatrick is hired to find her. In her search for the truth, in what becomes a murder hunt, Jill is seduced by the alluring Diana Mailand, Mickey's former poetry professor. Plunging deep into in a dark and sleazy web of corruption and deceit, Jill comes to learn how the truth isn't always so beautiful, and killers don't like to be caught. Fuelled by homicide, betrayal, and a femme fatale to go to hell for, The Monkey's Mask is an erotic mystery novel written in verse. But forget what you know about poetry. This is not a love sonnet. From one of Australia's most innovative writers, The Monkey's Mask drives headfirst into murder, manipulation, and the consuming power of sex, and is a thriller to make other whodunnits seem mild.

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