Review: The Neon Owl (Book I): When the Shit Hits the Van by Chad Lutzke

cover of The Neon Owl by Chad LutzkeThe Neon Owl (Book I): When the Shit Hits the Van by Chad Lutzke
Independently Published (January 2020)

168 pages; $8.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann

Showing up for a Chad Lutzke story is a resignation of emotional preservation. You come to engage with the words on the page with your heart fully exposed and a willingness to let Lutzke do as he wishes. More often than not, the book will end on a note that breaks your heartstrings and leaves the reader with a nasty bookish hangover.

The Neon Owl is a bit of a departure from the usual agreement and I loved it! This story manages to put a big grin on your face instead of streaking your cheeks with tears and I’m not mad about it.

This guy named Jinx (who feels very much like one of those charming, confirmed bachelor types everyone knows) inherits his Aunt’s fleabag motel called The Neon Owl. It’s one of those roadside motels that have long-term, live-in residents rather than a place where tourists would want to stay for the night.

I absolutely adore Jinx and the cast of colorful characters he meets assuming his new role managing the motel.

Lutzke expertly leans into his gift of humor he’s been hinting at and teasing his readers with all along. It’s really clear that he is one of those people, in real life, who watches people. He listens to them. He’s an observer. He brings this gift of details and mannerisms to the page; bringing to life fully-formed, dimensional characters that the reader can vividly see and relate to. Often times I find myself thinking, “I know somebody just like that.”

Somewhere along the line, a mystery is ushered into the plot and it is hysterical. I love the ridiculous nature of this situation Jinx finds himself in, and the fact that it’s important to him and some of the motel residents to solve the mystery once and for all. Of course, like most things in life, something that starts off seemingly innocent or silly begins to snowball into something more serious. This is when things go from zany antics to wild and dangerous.

I’m so pleased this is Book 1 and that Lutzke promises there are more of these tales to come. It reminds me of a series Joe R. Lansdale would write—a mixture of horror, heart and humor. My all-time favorite blend.

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