‘Small Change:’ Advance Book Review

I love the characters of Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller. I said so when I first read their adventures in Andrez Bergen’s anthology, The Condimental Op. I’m quoted as saying so on the cover of Tales to Admonish #2, which features comic adaptations of the two characters. I probably say it, or some variation thereof, every time there’s a new Roy and Suzie mystery to be read. Well, now my affinity has been rewarded. Small Change is a complete Roy and Suzie novel.

For those who are not familiar with the characters, Roy and Suzie are low-rent paranormal investigators. Roy is a gritty, cynical private eye who’s seen more than his share of Humphrey Bogart movies. Suzie is his perky, blonde, “by the book” assistant—who also happens to own the company. Together, they investigate everything from vampires to werewolves to what may or may not be a zombie, all while bickering back and forth over every little detail.

The book is divided into three sections. The first is a series of mostly standalone adventures of Roy and Suzie out on various cases. It begins with the ones I’d read already in Condimental Op and Tales to Admonish, then moves on to some fun, new ones.

The second section goes back and tells the story of Roy’s early years: how he came to work for Art Miller, Suzie’s father; how they went from run-of-the-mill private eyes to investigators of the paranormal; and how Suzie came to take her father’s place in the family business. It also includes some stories previously published in The Condimental Op and elsewhere—and not just Roy and Suzie stories. Bergen is a master at recycling and repurposing his old stories, and, here, he cobbles together a variety of different yarns to form Roy’s backstory.

However, if you haven’t already read these stories, you’d never know they weren’t originally part of Small Change. Woven together with a bit of added exposition, they actually form a more cohesive story than the first section. The sequence of events flows seamlessly.

Finally, the third section brings us into the present, as Roy and Suzie have been working together for about two and a half years. It’s another series of standalone stories, but it gives us a bit of a character arc, as Roy and Suzie learn to work with and respect each other, instead of barely tolerating each other’s presence, as they did in the first section.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t still bicker. It’s the bickering between the two that makes these characters so much fun. Inspired by everyone from Felix and Oscar to McMillan & Wife, their banter is what drives much of the book. It’s hilarious to see them arguing over whether their quarry is a zombie or a Lazarus, as said quarry is actively advancing on them.

All in all, this is a great book. I asked for a Roy and Suzie novel in my very first review of their adventures, and Small Change does not disappoint. If you’re a fan of paranormal comedy, hard-boiled noir, odd couples with witty banter, or just fun, funny, well-told stories, then you’ll definitely enjoy this latest offering from Andrez Bergen. Hopefully, by the time you’re through, you’ll love Roy and Suzie as much as I do.

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