Reviewed by Kayla Cook for Readers’ Favorite
(Disclaimer: I received small monetary compensation from Readers' Favorite and a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.)
A Comedian Walks Into a Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly is the story of Vince Locker, a failed comedian who, after his dreams are crushed, finds himself teetering on the brink of oblivion, which, in this case, is also known as the Smith Avenue High Bridge. Before he plummets to his death, an old-fashioned hearse arrives. Within are the mortician Truss and the corpse of Riva O’Malley, a destitute, unclaimed murder victim. The encounter saves Vince’s life and allows him to undertake a new calling: Providing comedic eulogies for Truss’s clients. Helping others find the closure he never could after his father’s disappearance twenty years earlier aids Vince on his journey of self-discovery, but for reasons he doesn’t understand, he can’t rest until he solves the mystery of Riva’s untimely demise and gives voice to her story. In his search for truth, Vince inadvertently kicks a hornets’ nest, landing himself and his loved ones in grave danger.
I selected this book expecting relentless humor with some drama and mystery thrown in. Instead I found a deeply engaging, emotionally charged read with unique characters, nail-biting suspense, and moments of profound, beautiful prose. I felt the humor, while present throughout the novel, was largely overshadowed by the gravity of the subject matter. While this sounds like a negative, I honestly think it made for a more poignant read, and the comedic elements did serve to lighten the mood enough in many cases to keep the drama aspects from becoming overbearing. I really connected with the way Vince used humor to deal with life. Though I expected some of what came to light, I found myself absorbed by the mystery aspects of the story, and the ultimate outcome left me floored. I recommend A Comedian Walks Into a Funeral Home by Dennis Kelly for anyone with a dark sense of humor who’s interested in an enjoyable, singular read with lots of quirky moments and plenty of twists and turns.