Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
The Novelist Gene
May 9, 2003
Novelists are a special breed that I think must be born with a unique
"novelist" gene. The good one has to paint a geographical background
with all sorts of detail, invent an exciting plot, and create people to
walk and talk and do other things in that background.
Marne Davis Kellogg does all that. Roundup, Wyoming is just as real as
London and the south of France. Her feisty female characters can wear
cowboy boots or Dior suits. They all make me a little envious.
It's Christmas in May for me. Kellogg's new book, Brilliant is just
out and it is every bit as much fun as all her others. Her new heroine
is Kathleen Day Keswick, known as Kick. Kick had a rough start in
Oklahoma but, thanks to the power of the novel, landed on her feet in
upper crust London. A highly sophisticated, smart woman of
indeterminate age (she has been Executive Assistant in a prestigious
London auction house for 30 years) and indeterminate weight ("My size
didn't mean I was less of a girl") she loves diamonds, fine wine, good
food and, oh my yes, diamonds! When the auction house is bought by a
charming scoundrel the plot heats up. Which one outsmarts the other?
I'll never tell. The plot is complex but very smooth, the characters
real and the fun continuous. Janet Evanovich wrote, "I loved Kick -- I
wouldn't want to mess with her, but I would enjoy hanging out with her."
I loved Kick too, but I do think that Lilly Bennett and her bridegroom
have been on their honeymoon long enough and should get back to Roundup,
Wyoming and go to work.
Several other writers have ventured out with new characters.
Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum has been wise-cracking her way through
eight mysteries, the ninth due this summer. The Jersey bond chaser
with the off-beat family has a smart mouth and a crazy sense of humor
To give Steph a rest, Evanovich has teamed with Charlotte Hughes to
produce Full Tilt, which doesn't even take place in Jersey, but has
moved down to South Carolina. Jamie Swift runs the local newspaper
and Maximillian Holt rides into town with more money than she knew
existed, an almost science fiction car and, murder and romance. Sound
familiar? It is fun, but I'm glad Stephanie is due back soon.
Patricia Cornwell is another author to give her favorite character a
rest. In Isle of Dogs Judy Hammer, Superintendent of Virginia State
Police and Andy Brazil don't measure up to Kay Scarpetta and I found the
book rather dull. On the other hand, one of my friends thought it was
great, so take your choice. But it is not classic Cornwell.
One of my favorite women is Ella Clah, Navajo Police Special
Investigator, the creation of Aimee & David Thurlo. Changing Woman
is just out in paperback. Ella faces the issue of using gaming casino
money as a means of easing financial problems in her Native American
community, and the problems casinos bring, along with a bad guy out to
shoot her. But it is Ella's character, part traditionalist and part
modernist trying to balance job and family who is at the center of
this excellent series.
Nearly a thousand years ago, the Anasazi ruled the cliffs and canyons of
Mesa Verde with a rich, vibrant culture that disappeared as mysteriously
as it arose. A series of novels by Kathleen and Michael Gear moves
back and forth between present day archaeology and the People of 1200 A.
D. The third, "Bone Walker" came out last winter. All three feature
archaeologist Dusty Walker as he tries to bring the past to life. My
friend the philosopher calls this series "kind of a time-traveling Tony
I found another mystery title on the web, but couldn't find a copy of
the book in town: "I Got Away with Murder," by Scott Free.