Readers win with ‘Heads you Lose’

Lindsay Adams

“Heads You Lose” is a crime caper and tag-team novel written by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward. In a tag-team novel, the two authors take turns, each one writing every other chapter. Lutz wrote the first chapter and the rest of the odd-numbered chapters, and Hayward wrote the even ones.

Paul and Lacey Hansen are orphans who own a farm that grows illegal marijuana. One day they find a headless dead body on their porch. They cannot call the police because of the marijuana, so they dispose of the body, only to have it reappear the next day. The two decide to solve the mystery. This leads to all kinds of exciting hijinks, shady characters, hilarious dialogue and the discovery of more dead bodies.

The only thing more entertaining than the pot-growing sibling protagonists are the two dueling authors whose terse notes and emails to each other break up the chapters, and whose snide digs at each other slowly start to manifest themselves in the work. Character, plot and dialogue are completely at the whims of the often dueling authors. As the plot starts to unravel, they are left wondering just like the readers and the lead characters just who the murderer will be.

Lutz and Hayward are ex-lovers and their “constructive criticism” of the other soon turns into anything but, with finger-pointing blame and rehashing of the incidents of their relationship. Lutz and Hayward have one failed attempt at collaboration behind them, which they constantly reference and rebuke each other for ruining. Lutz claims Hayward is too ephemeral with his high-art references and Hayward digs at her streamlined popular fiction style.

Characters change drastically based on the chapter, from an ex-stripper with a genius IQ to the dreamy doctor who is new in town, who in Lutz’s chapter is the equivalent to Prince Charming, and in Hayward’s turns out to be a hard drug addict and misogynistic jerk. Terry Jakes, a character both beloved and hated depending on which author you ask, suffers multiple deaths and resurrections. He is also reincarnated in the form of a cousin who happens to have the exact same personality traits.

Eventually Paul and Lacey, due to disagreements, set out to find the murderer on their own. Subsequently, it becomes a race to see who can get to him (or her) first. The sibling rivalry finally escalates until it matches the two authors’ constant competitiveness.

Hayward and Lutz manage to combine the clever and witty mystery with the many sarcastic, petty and hilarious clashes through impolite messages between them. This is carefully done, and while slowly the reader begins to notice the slight but distinct differences in writing style, the switch between the two is never jarring or awkward, except when they are fighting through the characters to great comedic effect.

This has become one of my new favorite novels. The novel is unique and edgy, with a sense of humor ranging from the absolute ridiculous and farcical to the wry. It is hip and filled with silly references to made-up reality shows, which are ludicrous but fairly realistic. The motley assortment of characters in the novel makes for a deliciously and deviously offbeat novel. I would definitely suggest reading this novel. It is gripping and a fast-paced read.

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