I had anticipated reading "The Land of Laughs" for months, having had it strongly recommended to me. I finally acquired a copy through eBay and upon beginning the story, found myself utterly drawn in.
The story's protagonist is named Thomas Abbey, who is an English teacher. Thomas grew up in the shadow of his now deceased father, a famous actor. As a result, Thomas has grown from a priveleged son into a self-pitying man. The mere mention of his father sends Thomas into childish fits and we are subjected to his tantrums often.
Thomas is an intellectual obsessed with two things: rare wooden carved masks and anything that has to do with his late idol, children's book author, Marshall France. When the opportunity to travel to his hero's old town residence to craft the first authorized biography presents itself, Thomas and his ladyfriend, Saxony, jump at the chance. What follows in the book is the strange detailings of a bizarre town of suspicious characters and activities that draw Thomas in and threaten to cost him his life.
The humorous characters and storyline flow effortlessly throughout the novel, giving the false appearance that this is not an author's first published work. Every scene is strongly projected and richly supported by the narrative, every character is strong and unique.
The story can be neatly broken into three parts: The events leading up to beginning the biography, the arrival in town and beginning of the biography, and the events following the discovery of the town's dirty secret. I greatly enjoyed the book until the finale (what I would call part 3). Up until then, the story had strong direction and a purpose; I flew through its pages. Once the town's secret is finally uncovered, the book tends to lose its focus and eventually falls into the Land of Cliches. I was left hollow at the predictable and ludicrous ending, an ending that strangely reminded me of the lame ending to the Thomas Harris "Hannibal" novel.
All in all, I encourage you to read this novel; it is a worthwhile book and I am anxious to explore other Jonathan Carroll books.