Rebecca Scherm’s Unbecoming is a heist tale, a bildungsroman, a love story, and above all, a compelling psychological study of a likeable young woman with strong anti-social tendencies. As the novel progresses, Grace, the protagonist, not only behaves in “unbecoming” ways, but “unbecomes” the promising girl she once was. She grows in independence, strength and daring, but it is impossible to approve of her.
You could say, tongue in cheek, that it is the diverting story of how a man loses one wife and finds another. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, the characters are well-defined (if anything, they behave a little too straightforwardly – no melancholy moping as in some novels I’ve read recently) and Williams’s prose is plenty good enough.
Besides being a very fine mystery, Stout’s novel is as well a provocative meditation on contemporary history. He reminds us that the primary source for the recent past lies in the memories of the living. Such memories, fragile as they are, may indeed be the only resource, if you want to challenge the written record.
All the characters are terrific, utterly convincing; there is an authentic sense of place: Chelsea, N.Y., a blue-collar neighbourhood where authority figures, police officers most of all, are treated with suspicion; and there’s Fortune’s voice, streetwise but by no means hard-boiled, compassionate yet missing nowt. And with a nice line in epigrams: ‘A man in prison needs a human word.’ ‘Unanswered questions are like lurking monsters.’
Hand in Glove is a different type of mystery that will make you wonder whether a comedy team such as Abbot and Costello wrote the script, acted it out in order to elicit the laughs readers will get when reading this book. The characters are quite different and yet all they want to do is solve the case but not before some other wild and zany things happen.
One of the many virtuous attributes of the novel, is the warm and tender friendship between the characters which remain intact even after they go their separate ways after school and university. Another, is the idea of the spiritual search each character is pursuing in order to discover their own personal, ultimate Truth. Macgregor has created a witty, intelligent read, well-suited to those who love an intricate, well-managed mystery.
The sensationalism of the tabloids further degrades society. Kirsty is low on the journalism food chain and must write what fits her newspaper’s slant: “Her job is to find fifteen hundred words of the sort of Sunday feature that makes readers feel better about their own lives…No town where a killer is on the loose is allowed to be a nice town; it’s an unwritten law.” Later in the novel, when a serial killer is caught, the media whips the public into such a frenzy that a mob pursues his common-law wife after she visits him in jail.
The warmth between the characters, the families, and the characters they meet is obvious in this tight-knit community, with the mystery unfolding gently. The book doesn’t shy from real issues, including homophobia, historical lies, murder, betrayal, and massacre, everything unfolds so gently, and with such good humour, that reading the book is an absolute joy. Despite the serious issues that the book addresses, this is as suitable for a young adult reader as for an adult, and will appeal to wide audience. It’s clear that Lazar has come to know and love his characters and every time he revisits them, he brings out new nuances and depths, so that returning to a Gus Lazar mystery is like meeting an old friend once again.
The launch of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1941 was a break-through for women writers in that the editors published not only hardboiled and noir detective fiction, which was mostly written by men, but also domestic crime and suspense stories, at which women excelled. Weinman’s authors won “Edgar” nominations from the Mystery Writers of America, founded in 1945. Some of them wrote best-sellers, including novels that became motion pictures (such as Vera Caspary’s Laura). In Weinman’s view, these authors are no longer remembered, unlike some male writers like Dasheill Hammett and Ross Macdonald, because their domestic subject matter has not been taken seriously.
One of the attractive features of the novel is the use of old style font for some of the 1780s passages, and the illustrations in silhouette, popular in the 18th century. The novel is smoothly written, the 1920s slang authentic-sounding.