#4: The Wooden Overcoat (1951) by Pamela Branch

Wooden Overcoat, TheThe less you know about Pamela Branch’s debut novel the more you’ll get out of it, and obviously this poses a problem for my nascent blog.  A few cultural touchstones, then: it falls somewhere within kicking distance of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1954), 1980s comedy classic (one of those words should be in ironic quotation marks, surely?) Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), and the output of Kelley Roos.  There is a dead body.  It must be hidden.  Difficulties ensue.  And this undertaking (if you will) is very, very funny.

The funny is a difficult one, because I’m honestly not sure at which point it becomes funny.  It starts off strange and becomes only stranger as it goes, all the while introducing a gentle absurdity that, at least for me, tips over into outright hilarity at times.  It’s not consistent rolling-in-the-aisles comical, but I’d be surprised if you could read too much of this – especially in the set-pieces like the ‘picnic’ and, later, its glorious counterpoint in chapter 18 – without at least a wry smile on your face.  There are a few quite lovely suprises, hence my recommendation that you know as little as possible going in, and it all stays far enough this side of zany, bawdy nonsense to remain just about believable.

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