As tempting and tasty as yellow cake are these novels about single but not terribly singular women, suddenly alone or suddenly in trouble or suddenly displaced. If they had worked they become domestic, if they had had money they no longer do, if they had been married, they are divorced, if they had been transient and urban they inherit old houses, if they had been housekeepers, they lose their house. Now, after all, is not the age of keeping, houses or wives or economic models or anything else.
Something is lost and these women are forced to find it — some Lacanian objet a — again… Like all lost objects their identities must be refound, rebuilt or redecorated. And so must Lucy’s.
Lucy is, or was, a successful criminal lawyer until the day she discovers that one of her clients is, or was, guilty. She quits, moves to the suburbs, and makes popcorn balls. Yep. She does not however quit her more or less absentee boyfriend, whom she plans to marry sometime soon. Then the Feds pay her a visit, and she is told that the man who she thinks is her boyfriend is really someone else, a very bad someone else… (Amazing how often this kind of thing happens. See: Taken by Barbara Freethy; Pacific Heights, Paul Harper)
To add to her woes, she is hit by a power line which has fallen during a storm, and is now able to tell what the people around her are thinking. This is disconcerting, but useful in dealing with FBI agents.
Lucy also has a dog and a neighbor with a dog who are fond and protective of her throughout her ordeal.
How fun to be a stubborn, sensible English widow who takes up decorating or hotelkeeping or moves to Brighton. The kind of fun that takes time: not like those television garden shows that demonstrate
“how to transform an entire garden in a matter of five hours while the lady of the house [goes to] visit her mother in the next town. …A team would move in. They would spend an inordinate amount of money on mature plants, containers, garden furniture, trellising and ceramic slabs… Towards the end there would be moments of panic because the wife was due to walk in the door in precisely seven minutes time…”
No, Caroline has fun slowly. She sells her old house at Bath slowly, she moves to Brighton slowly, she fixes her old house slowly, and then converts a new house into flats, slowly. Meanwhile she discovers that she’s “…got a wonderful eye for fabrics, window treatments, lighting, decorating, color schemes and so on … even furniture.” Then, very slowly, she turns her builder into her friend and her friend into her partner, slowly, sensibly, with a happy division of labour:
I’m asking you to design while I carry out the practical part.
Constructed as a series of letters to a slightly fay, newly divorced, 45 year old antiques expert, this whodunit offers criminality inset in decorating news and auction house frippery. Mrs. Sterling Glass is keeping her ex-husband’s last name because “who would give up the name Kennedy in favor of O’Riley?”. There is an analogy here somewhere.Mrs. Glass answers letters to Dear Antiques Expert written by readers of the local newspaper, such as
Dear Antiques Expert:
We were recently broken into and we lost silver and jewelry and some antique prints… The burglars were caught but when the cases came to trial they got off with really light sentences… How can that be?
Mrs. Sterling Glass responds:
…you have to expose law enforcements officers to the arts so they will have an understanding of the seriousness of personal property theft involving art and antiques. Unfortunately even today not enough police officers know enough about art and antiques and their historical and monetary value to make a strong case against the thiefs.
The civilizing process must involve the education of the senses, which is the basis of aesthetic judgements. The United States are, in this regard, uncivilized. But Mrs. Glass is here to remedy this situation.
Aristotle says that there are three sexes: men, women, and short women.
This book is about that third sex: short, married, murderous women with
happy helpful husbands and perky breasts. The kind who play tennis in the
morning and spend the afternoon decorating the guest bathroom. The
kind who think that wife #3 means she gets 3 furs. These women may be found in
“… Shelter Magazines – the ones that feature homes of couples so rich you know they don’t sleep together.”
But something goes very wrong in the life of one member of this sheltered sex. Something not very motherly, not very wifely, and the handsome, widowed 50 year old Elizabeth who happens to be in love with a cop, finds out what it is. In short, a fun, amusing murder in the suburbs.