This post of Who Censored Roger Rabbit by author Gary K. Wolf has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoliler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
If you are anywhere near my age bracket you’ve very likely seen the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. You probably had a very confusing crush on Jessica Rabbit.
Just admit it, I know I did.
But you probably didn’t know that the movie was based on a series of noir thriller novels by Gary K. Wolf. I know I didn’t.
I recently rewatched the movie and it absolutely holds up. The animation is still breathtaking and the acting is superb. Seriously, add this to your short list of movies to watch again.
But while watching the credits for the movie I saw that ever so telling “based on the novel” caption and couldn’t believe my eyes. This movie, about cartoons living among the humans was a novel?! How… how does that even work?
I had to find out, I bought the kindle edition of the first of the four novels immediately. And let me tell you, this is an impressive piece of fiction.
It strongly veers from the plot of the movie, at least this first book does. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the other books soon and see if there are more similar plot elements but this first one is definitely different.
Jessica Rabbit is still in it and still (kind of) married to Roger. She’s described exactly as she looks in the movie. The book does an incredible job of describing the toons. The crazy way they look as well as their inhuman actions and speech bubbles. The speech bubbles even interact in three dimensional space!
The plot stands on it’s own for this first book. It’s not the same as the movie and it has an actual conclusion so the sequels can be assumed to also be stand-alones.
It is also far more adult than the movie is. This is truly a hard-boiled action noir thriller that includes violence, sex, and other adult themes.
The best part is that it’s just a well crafted mystery. The reader gets to keep track of clues and follow the trail of the mystery to the surprise twist ending that actually works. There are just enough red herrings to keep the story from being obvious but not so many that you just feel manipulated by the end.
Above all else, it’s original. I’ve never read another book like it. It masterfully handles its bizarre concept and grounds it to be serious when it could easily become overly silly.
I look forward to reading the others in the series at a future date and would love to hear from anyone else who has read them.
If you love mystery novels add this one to the top of your to read list. It will keep you engaged the entire time and the characters are definitely far from stereotypical or boring.
Who Censored Roger Rabbit Book Summary
Most of you are likely aware of the wonderful film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, if you’re like me, you never knew it was based on a series of books.
I recently rewatched Who Framed Roger Rabbit and I can assure you it holds up. The animation is absolutely stunning and the acting is superb. Surprisingly, it’s also not really sexist like I was a little worried it would be. If you have somehow never seen it I highly recommend it.
So when I found out that it was based on a book I figured I should check it out. That’s just weird enough to either be great or terrible. I mean, how do you portray a world of cartoon characters in a novel?
Well, Gary K. Wolf does it splendidly. The characters are described in remarkably vivid detail down to every last line and speech bubble.
Of course, there are many differences between this book and the movie but I’ll try to keep it just to the book here and tell you that the two stand completely independent of each other.
The novel follows private investigator Eddie Valient as he takes a case for one Roger Rabbit. Roger wants out of his contract with a cartoon strip in which he’s been playing second fiddle.
Things get quickly complicated for the case as crimes pile on top of one another.
Eddie goes to visit Roger’s costar Baby Herman, a cigar smoking, wise cracking, adult libidoed man in a baby’s body. He says that Roger threatened to kill their contract manager Rocco after Roger’s wife Jessica left Roger for him.
In the next interview, Jessica claims that Roger just kind of went crazy recently. She left him out of simply no longer wanting to be involved with him. Jessica is described exactly as she is in the movie. That absolute bombshell of a cartoon sexpot that confused many an adolescent watching this family film.
Roger tells Eddie that someone tried to kill him by smothering him with a cream pie and Roger’s psychiatrist says he’s been faking that bit for months. This book really keeps consistent with the logic of cartoon characters intermingling with humans in the real world.
Following the rabbit trail of clues leads Eddie to find Roger dead, shot in his apartment.
This is where the book strongly veers away from the movie. Roger is definitely dead and will continue to be dead for the rest of the book. I kept waiting for some cartoon magic to bring him back but let me assure you right now, he’s dead.
Across town Jessica calls in the death of her lover Rocco and it is assumed that Roger killed Rocco followed by Jessica killing Roger. But could it be that simple?
In this universe toons are able to create doppelgangers. Temporary copies of themselves that allow them to perform dangerous stunts. Roger’s doppel shows up to help Eddie solve the murders. He’s claiming that he was framed and that Jessica is also innocent.
Roger, Jessica, and Rocco’s brother Dominick all send Eddie chasing his tail over a mysterious tea kettle that they all want for completely different reasons. This is the big clue of the book to keep your eye on.
Keep in mind that this book is every bit a hard-boiled noir mystery and never deviates from that style and structure.
We start to learn all of the dark secrets of the main players in this story including that Jessica Rabbit was involved in some X rated comic strips and that several witnesses can place Roger as Rocco’s killer.
Eddie is running out of of time to solve the case as Roger’s doppel is beginning to disintegrate. He discovers that this tea kettle may actually be a magic lamp of the Aladdin variety.
He confirms this theory by summoning a very rude genie from the tea kettle. The genie is the reason that Jessica married the doofy Roger in the first place. Everyone always thought she was way above him at least in the looks department. He is also the reason that Roger got a contract for the cartoon strip. The genie granted these wishes but made them temporary out of spite for being trapped in a tea kettle for centuries.
Jessica was released from the spell and no longer wanted to be married to him. Rocco and Dominick turn out to actually be toons who had wished to become human, a spell that was also wearing off.
The genie was the reason for many of the convoluted plot lines throughout the book. Additionally, he murdered Roger. This jerk genie did it all.
Usually, this kind of deus ex machina would rub me the wrong way but it somehow works in the universe that Wolf created. I didn’t exactly see a genie coming either and I like surprises.
Eddie needs to wrap up the case and doesn’t want to explain magic to the police so he convinces the genie to give evidence that Dominick killed Roger and Rocco and then himself.
Wraps it all up nicely right?
Except that Roger actually did kill Rocco. The whole time it was actually him. His doppel had been created as an alibi. Roger wasn’t the dummy he played in the strips. He had it all planned out until the darn genie got in the way and left evidence with his dead body.
Roger’s doppel confesses the whole thing before disintegrating into nothingness. It’s a bit of a twist ending that actually works and makes the story even better.
As far as mysteries go this one is up there with the best I’ve ever read. It’s well crafted with just the right amount of clues and red herrings and never goes into completely ridiculous territory despite the whole concept of toons and magic genies.
Everything works within the rules created for this world and it’s entertaining as all get out. Above all else it’s incredibly original and creative. I don’t even know how one comes up with the idea of cartoon characters being a part of a noir mystery thriller let alone executes it so seamlessly.
It’s a remarkable piece of fiction that I can recommend to fans of the movie or just anyone who likes a good mystery story. This one will blow your mind and keep you glued to the edge of your seat.
Do keep in mind though that unlike the movie this one may not be suitable for the little ones.
5/5 rabbits 🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰
For a great self published mystery comedy check out Cube Sleuth.
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