THIS BODY’S NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US: An Outstanding Handful
Author: Edgar Cantero
Published: July 31st, 2018
Length: 256 Pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780385543965
A. Z. Kimrean is a genetic chimera. A brother (Adrian) and a sister (Zooey) sharing a body, if waging an unwinnable war of attrition with one another can be considered sharing. They’re also private investigators, and they’re about to get called in to stop a gang war from erupting over the increasingly frequent deaths of a crime boss’s children. Left-brained Adrian understands logic, analysis, and observation. Right-brained Zooey understands emotion, intimacy, and desire. It will take all of their antagonistically-combined wits and skills to overcome all of the glaring clichés of their genre in order to understand the mystery unfurling before them and figure out exactly what kind of story they’re caught up in.
Edgar Cantero has quickly become one of my favourite authors currently writing and this is due in no small part to his style of prose, which I would struggle to define as anything less than opulent. Cantero’s ability to massage inexplicable metaphors into a relaxed state on the page and coax coherence out of meta-textual references is nothing short of brilliant. It is in full, undiluted form in This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us (henceforth This Body because I’ve been contacted by the authorities and the use of this title has caused a shortage in available vowels across North America). One might be tempted to refer to Cantero’s prose as frenzied because it seems to tumble ever forward under a momentum generally only experienced by astronauts during a shuttle launch or PCP addicts. However, it is quite clear that behind the prose is a highly detail-oriented consideration of the power and structure of language. If words have power, then Cantero has found the Infinity Gauntlet for grammar and syntax. Just as in Meddling Kids (2017), the novel’s climax is represented both narratively and prosaically so that it is impossible not to acknowledge and appreciate how everything is just words but words are everything.
The Kimreans are both such vivid characters with complexities and flaws that radiate like a recent nuclear blast site. As a result, they’re incredibly compelling. And while Cantero does find ways to make their unimaginable situation relatable, part of their strength as characters is their complete refusal to orient themselves relative to an easily defined archetype. Surrounding them are a cast of accessory characters who similarly sink in and out of archetypal detective novel clichés with such frequency that easy definitions are stripped of relevance and renegotiated on a chapter-to-chapter basis. Cantero also demonstrates his strength at character work in how much depth he can lend a character in such a short period of time. A late-novel character manages to become fascinating in the space of only a couple paragraphs of revelatory dialogue, and this is just the best example among many great ones.
This Body’s one flaw is that it is short. Barely scraping by the 250-page mark, I couldn’t help wishing for more moments of pause between the more intense and high-octane scenes that A. Z. move between. Cantero does such a good job of building and working moments of pause in Meddling Kids that I would have loved to see more of them for the Kimreans. This Body feels like a snapshot novel and, as is often the case in the publishing industry, any future stories of A. Z. Kimrean will rely on how successful it is. While there is a wholeness to This Body, I sincerely hope to see future stories involving the chimeric-twin private investigators. They are refreshingly sensational as the detective leads and Cantero’s meta-prose seems meant to expose every poorly filled cavity of the detective novel genre. And, in all honesty, the future of the Kimrean’s relationship to each other made itself important to me so quickly that I find it hard to accept I must be parted from them for long, even if they would so desperately wish to be parted from each other.