Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review: Death and the Lit Chick

I'll be honest, I've had a thing out for Chick Lit since I was in middle school. I walked into the school library excited at all the new opportunities. I'd effectively read almost all of the books in the elementary school library and had to get special permission to check out some of the “adult” books kept for the teachers. The good books wouldn't be separated out for the grown ups, because I was almost a grown up, at least, close enough to read the good stuff. I felt like a kid in a candy store or, well, a geek in a library. I asked the librarian what she recommended because I didn't know where to start. She handed me 3 books that, I realize now, were basically standard YA books. I was bored, disgusted and absolutely offended. Thus began my loathing for the YA category of books. I went and did my own research and started reading Alexandre Dumas. In the 6 years I attended that school, I was the only person who checked out the only copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fast forward to several years later and I'm handed a Chick Lit book by a well meaning classmate because I mentioned liking a movie I'd seen over the weekend. I read the book and was sent back to 7th grade; bored, disgusted and offended. It wasn't obscene, unless you consider it shopping porn, but it was frivolous. If I'm going to rot my brain, I'm not about to do it on what is essentially cotton candy.

Death and the Lit Chick
 by G.M. Malliet
All of this is to explain why, when I saw the cover for Death and the Lit Chick by G. M. Malliet, I was excited. Reading the blurb on the back made me nearly cackle with glee. I will admit to a certain . . . unhealthy anticipation of the murder of a writer of a genre that I really can't stand. What I did not expect was to enjoy the book simply because I enjoyed it. The whole thing was written with a sense of humor that's difficult to find done well in fiction these days.

Set at a writers conference in Scotland, Death and the Lit Chick is fast paced and clever. The dialogue didn't try to be witty in a forced Sex and the City way but remained believable and easy to follow. The writing was fresh and easy to follow. The characters began as caricatures of different types of authors but grew into multi-dimensional people with histories and motives beyond their 'type'; and trust me, if you know more than one author, you'll recognize the 'types'.

Death and the Lit Chick
by G. M. Malliet
Though the book has all the hallmarks of an English Country House murder mystery, including a storm the night the victim is murdered, it operates in the twenty-first century. The detective is part of, and acknowledges, a larger police force. He is not the only good man fighting against the monsters, though he may have the longest name; Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St. Just. D.C.I St. Just works with the system; he doesn't go rogue, he's not a lone wolf out to prove the system is wrong, he's a well adjusted member of the police force who's worked his way up, is good at his job and allows that other members of the police force are good at theirs. This may be a strictly American take on this book but it was very refreshing for the police to be, not only the good guys, but smart and competent.

Now, to the things that bother me; very little, actually. As a product of far too many writing classes and workshops, I noticed some things that made me want to smack the author upside the head, though not in a mean way. She uses the mirror trick to give a physical description of a character; this I consider cheating. Anybody familiar with crime statistics will be able to pick out the murderer, though how s/he does it remains a mystery until very near the end of the book, when a key piece of information is revealed.

All in all, this was a delightful read and I would recommend it to anybody who's ever been to a writers conference or knows much about the publishing industry.  

**Yes, there are two covers. While I prefer the first, the second fits a bit better with some of the things in the book. I consider both well done examples of a good cover.

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