Christopher Moore, Island of the Sequined Love Nun (HarperCollins, 1997)

It's five a.m., and I'm tired. Unfortunately, I started reading Love Nun early this evening, and have been unable to put it down for children, food, or obviously, sleep.

Ironically, I wasn't terribly enthusiastic about picking it up to begin with. I have read several of Moore's novels, and I think by now I can claim to be a pretty dedicated fan. I hadn't read this one for a few years though, and remembered it as being one of the weakest of the bunch. Had I a better memory, I would have planned to read it on a far more accommodating schedule!

The story begins with our unlikely hero Tucker Case finding himself hanging hog-tied from a tree. From this point we revisit the circumstances which brought him to this awkward position, and find them to be as twisted and upside down as poor Tucker himself.

Like many great heroes, Tucker does not begin as such. He doesn't exactly steal a jet -- he does work for the cosmetics company that owns it. He didn't quite know the woman he was with was a prostitute, and everything would have been fine had he not forgotten to check the jet's fuel gauge . It would have helped too had he not landed on the inconveniently placed "flap actuator lever", causing him a painful and embarrassing injury to a very personal area.

Tucker realizes life as he knows it is over. His pilot license will be revoked, he's definitely lost his job, and with his injury its unlikely he'll be able to go back to shtupping cosmetics sales reps any time soon.

Redemption appears to come in the person of Sebastian Case, a missionary doctor on a remote island who is unconcerned with his license status, and hopes to hire him to fly a new Lear 45 jet. Its a little mysterious, exactly what this job will entail, but its not likely he's going to get any other offers.

Together with Kimi, the cross dressing prostitute whom he picks up on the island of Yap, and his/her bat, he sets sail for final destination, Alualu.

Tucker arrives, after several more misadventures, only to be immediately strung up for lunch. But, he is at least on the right island, and finally is able to accept his new employment.

The island is inhabited by the Shark People, who get their name from what they hunt. Their religion is a curious mix of ancient traditions, Catholicism, and belief in Vincent, the god from the sky.

I could tell you here about Vincent, and what caused the Shark People to think he was a god. Or about the sexy, yet dangerous Sky Priestess, her connection to both the Shark People and Vincent, and who she is in her secret double identity. What foreign country figures in, and why might the FBI be interested in all of this?

Instead I give you this hint: suspension of disbelief is key throughout the novel. Go with it. In keeping with the rest of the story, the ending is bizarre, improbable, and unlikely, but cleverly writ, and fun. There is some seriously thick plot to this novel. What is written here is not even the beginning of a synopsis.

Moore writes in a quirky, modern, conversational tone. He immediately draws a reader into his characters, their dilemmas and their strengths. Even the most hapless hero is likeable in any Moore novel.

Also interesting is the information provided as an addendum to the novel. In here are some unusual facts about World War II, "cargo cults", and Pacific Island cultures. Although Moore claims, "My approach to research has always been 'Is this correct, or should I be more vague?'" it certainly never comes off that way in his storytelling. I think this is explained in these little Afterwords, which he makes a habit of including in his novels, and which prove that he does, indeed, do quite a lot of research.

[Kate Danemark]