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"I remember exactly when I decided to kill Jim Knipfle. It was a Tuesday morning after a long Columbus Day weekend. I celebrated Columbus with three days of drinking , weaving and cursing and pissing on my shoes. By Tuesday I was way past drunk and well into poisoned; if Congress had declared Columbus Week instead of Columbus Day, I would have been dead."
This is the first paragraph of Killers, a novel narrated in English by Emanuel Cardoso.
Cardoso is a food writer who has come to a conclusion. He must either murder the man who swindled his parents of their life savings or spend the rest of his life as a rage-filled, acting-out freak. Cardoso's father killed himself after losing his nest egg in Knipfle's Ponzi scheme. Cardoso's mother died a few months later. Knipfle has portrayed the events as a normal but unfortunate business loss. He doesn't know that Cardoso has investigated the details of the swindle. Knipfle is a financial columnist at the same weekly Village-Voice-style paper that publishes Cardoso's restaurant column.
Cardoso's reviews and assignments take him to a series of bizarre tastings which mysteriously lighten and otherwise alter his chronically angry mood. As he investigates the origins of this culinary Prozac, he meets two sets of characters dedicated to the proposition that 'you are what you eat'. Both of them have a very dangerous secret.
One group—the Chaîne des Caribes, a genteel association of cannibals- is out to convert him. They become unwitting partners in his plan for revenge. The other-the leftist friends of The Country Mouse- A Café with a Mission— is out to kill Cardoso before he can unravel their repulsive secret.
Cardoso has a secret too. On a visit to his shrink he admits that he introduced his parents to Knipfle, trying to impress them with how far he'd come in the world. Maybe he was himself Knipfle's henchman.
Along the way, Cardoso meets a cross-dressing child psychiatrist, a 370 lb descendant of the original cannibals, a beautiful and remorselessly candid caterer, her identically-named business partner and cousin who accidentally killed her father when she was six and makes phallic hors d'oeuvres and an Elvis worshipper. Cardoso rehearses and rejects delicious strategies for killing Knipfel before discovering a gun among the possessions of a recently deceased elder aunt.
He also traffics with a malicious gossipy civil-servant, SPCA functionaries, stock-brokering folk-guitar players and demonic cab drivers from Space.
He visits the best hotel dining room in the country, an elegant restaurant in a Philadelphia townhouse, a college hangout that serves monastic ales and a combination go-go and sushi bar. He also stops at a hamburger stand on the beach whose specialty-the Mignonette- is named for a British ship whose crew was tried for cannibalism.
Will Cardoso commit the murder that he thinks will save him? Will the Country Mouse people kill Cardoso? Are you really what you eat? Is Redemption just an idle threat? With Olivier dead, who will play Cardoso in the movie version? Who's a killer anyway?
Why don't you meet us all on the steps of Trentino's Slaughterhouse and find out?