Thursday, May 17, 2007

Triple Review: Favas Can Be Fatal by Priscilla Royal, Murder by Mascot by Mary Vermillion, and A Grave Opening by Jeanne Harris

Priscilla Royal. Favas Can Be Fatal
Published by Alyson Publications

Mary Vermillion. Murder by Mascot
Published by Alyson Publications

Jeanne Harris. A Grave Opening
Published by Bywater Books

Reviewed by Selina Rodrigues

White wine and burritos, the murder of a beautiful, brutal basketball star, and dead bodies in Aztec sites: these novels are not the tough urban streets or foggy Edwardian lanes of British crime fiction!

Alice Douglas, the main character in the strangely titled Flavas Can Be Fatal, won me over with her dry humour and laconic asides to the reader. She follows the trail of fatal food poisoning, a stabbing and the closure of her best friend’s (and, as a dedicated foodie, her favourite) restaurant. By turns, Alice charms and harasses her weird and wonderful suspects. Despite a few minor plot-holes, you’ll want to know whodunit in this tale of the surreal relationship between sleepy small town characters and the powerful, beautiful folk of San Francisco bay. Recommended as a laid back summer read, accompanied by your favourite tipple!

Murder by Mascot concerns the murder of a college sports/sex hero. Mara Gilgannon is a radio journalist, working in the charged political and competitive arena of the university campus. A procession of troubled suspects haunt Mara’s hours and she tries to untangle the sexually charged loyalties and friendships of a competitive, paranoid sports community. She is also trying to fathom her own lingering feelings for her ex and lust for her part time lover. How soon is too soon to jump into bed with someone new? Why isn’t everyone as out and proud as her and her politicised friends? The pace of this gritty novel falters slightly in the middle but some of final scenes are chilling.

In A Grave Opening, Delia Ironfoot is prepared for an emotional reunion with the family and community she left in Arkansas when her career was destroyed through prejudice and libel. However, she is quickly distracted by the attacks on her family and friends, all seemingly linked with an ancient burial plot that she has inherited. This has the least developed plot and puzzlingly, the author notes that she has taken liberties with some of the geography and archaeological periods, which are central to the story. This is a shame; they are detailed and convincingly drawn and it is slightly disorientating to the reader. Delia tussles with family loyalty and identity, and temptations of the flesh and heart come in very appealing but different guises! This novel’s strength is its exploration of the unexpected meanderings of the human heart, leading to a poignant but realistic ending.

Selina Rodrigues is a writer and lives in London.

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