Book Review: The Demon, the Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag by Sal Cangemi

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop

Synopsis:

Kyle Jarvis is hiding. He has moved into Le Trou Du Cul, a pleasant suburban apartment complex, to hide from those he has wronged. But the well-hidden complex is not as quiet as he had hoped. And there are the odd neighbors. A reclusive old actress, a man who listens to Christmas music year-round, and the Horn Family – the patriarch of which who has found a way to travel back in time to his 1980’s hay-day – are fighting a demon!

The forest surrounding the complex is ready to engulf the building. Unknown animals are appearing on the grounds – including a family of Sasquatch and a Nessie-like serpent in the small man-made lake. A ghost is haunting one apartment while another shrinking. And a demon, the (almost) evil SLYMIND BRAINTWIST, is the cause of it all.

When the Horn Family’s son, the trouble-making Timmy, disappears, the tenants must ban together and form an alliance with Jarvis as their unlikely leader, in hopes of returning the boy home. It is up to Jarvis and Summer, a neo-hippy, to lead the way. Summer has enlisted the help of the flamboyant clairvoyant, Anton Snow, to fight the battle.

An absurdist allegory about conforming, lost dreams, and regret, overflowing with horror and humor, The Demon, the Dumbwaiter and the Douchebag is a hilarious social satire that will have its reader cringing and laughing in equal measure.

Review:

Sometimes you hear about a book that you know you’re going to like on premise alone. “The Demon, The Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag” is one of those stories. I have a soft spot for the subgenre of apartment building stories, where the entire building is represented as different characters. One story that sticks out in my mind is the French film, “Delicatessen,” where the whole building is licking their chops at the prospect of eating their new maintenance man. Any book I find with an apartment building as a setting and a huge list of characters interacting with one another is really in my wheelhouse. 

I heard about Sal Cangemi’s debut novella on the Bizzong! Podcast, and I knew that it was one I needed to read. The story is that an apartment building has a demon living in it’s dumbwaiter, and once it is freed, it wreaks havoc on all of the inhabitants. The apartment building, “Le Trou Du Cul” (throw that in the google translator), is filled with characters that are actually a great deal of fun. Louis Green likes to look for Bigfoot in the 400 yard woods. Marlene Davis is an actress that is well beyond her career and just living. The Horn family who are a picture of dysfunction. Summer, “a neo-hippy new age asshole,” and the main focus character, Kyle Jarvis, who was running for something or someone that he did not want anyone to learn about. There are several other characters, and Cangemi does a good job introducing the large cast but still being able to keep the story moving fast toward the trainwreck. The trainwreck is caused by the demon, Slymind Braintwist, who is trying to graduate from living in Heck to living in Hell. He thinks the way to do this is cause chaos, pit one apartment dweller against the other, until they all kill each other. The actions that he causes are sometimes funny, sometimes gross, sometimes cringeworthy (like when he makes people say racist things), and sometimes not great. There are many jokes and pranks and a few of them seem a little too juvenile and fall flat but most of them work well.

For such a short novella, around 100 pages, Cangemi does a good job. There are some things that a story this short can be lacking, character or plot development particularly, but in his case, he does a good job keeping things clear and satisfying. Most of it is pretty funny, but there might be a few things that some might find offensive, mostly racist and homophobic language. I know the demon is making the characters say these things so I took it with a grain of salt but it may cause some  people to want to skip this one. Either way, Sal Cangemi’s debut is solid, and I will be looking forward to whatever comes next from him.   I’m comfortable giving this one 3.5 stars out of 5.

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