After being so impressed with Vicki Hendricks’ first novel, MIAMI PURITY, I had to try something else by her. VOLUNTARY MADNESS is narrated by Juliette, a young woman living in Key West with her somewhat older boyfriend Punch. An aspiring novelist, Punch is in poor health due to diabetes and heavy drinking, so he and Juliette make a suicide pact: for one year, they will live a wild, exciting life in Key West while Punch writes a novel about their experiences -- and then they will kill themselves while riding on one of the Fantasy Fest parade floats on Halloween. It’s a crazy plan, of course, and it becomes even crazier when violence and murder become involved.
The plot of VOLUNTARY MADNESS is sort of episodic and wanders around a little, which is why I didn’t like it quite as much as MIAMI PURITY. But the characterization and that distinctive Hendricks voice -- a blend of eroticism, despair, and wry, very dark humor -- are excellent. She also does a great job with the colorful Key West setting. I can recommend this one very highly, and I think it’s a safe bet to say that I’ll be reading more of Vicki Hendricks’ novels.
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