Deadly Divas & Shivering-Sisters Sleuths
(Saturday, April 1, 2006)
Reviewer: Linda G. Shelnutt
As usual, morning machinations with Moishe snuggled the story. Going from warm bed w/cat to work (with fresh, hot coffee at various points in the process) with a character who loves her livelihood is a vicarious joy of exotic dreams. Hannah had awakened seeing her breath in the frigid morning air, as she eased out from the bed covers before dawn. Her condo’s furnace was off. I immediately settled in when Hannah’s condo’s heat was turned on, before she left for The Cookie Jar, without her having to even lift a finger to walk through the Yellow Pages for a repair person. Dolores took a back seat in this plot, almost hiding in the shadow of Hanna’s (entertaining, sometimes endearing) bad moods. The morning-phone-call interruption from Hannah’s mother, Dolores, encountered less simmering irritation than usual, from both Hannah and Moishe, which was a plus. Hannah and Moishe’s un-welcoming moods toward Dolores make me wonder what Moms feel reading that. Mothering touchy, independent rebels wouldn’t be easy. On the other hand, Mrs Swensen is not an intimation of Mother Teresa. Dolores has mastered bringing out the under-breath hiss in Hannah. What’s soul healing to me is that Dolores and her daughters grow (through the series) to gradually discard some of the relationship sandpaper, and the various means Fluke uses to accomplish this are entertaining and realistic. In this case, Connie Mac, deadly diva, was a woman everyone could relish hating, no guilt necessary. I disliked this culinary guru so intensely, I almost developed an un-cozy rash, and was looking forward to Hannah telling off Connie in the royal-est of spades. Oops. The female monster found a way to avoid Hannah’s (to cheer for when it’s earned like this) soul etching syntax. Hannah’s attempts to understand Andrea were a warm surprise, surfacing as the sisters became the sleuthing pair here. Hanna’s intellectual-genius, rebel persona clashed entertainingly with her sister’s grammatical-disaster, common-sense-wisdom, applicable real-estate knowledge. I enjoyed the pro and con of Shopping Mall convenience (synthetic though it may be) being eased into an accepting, “different strokes for different folks.” The sisters dichotomy contrasted well with their mother’s prior-generation meddlesome-manipulator, critical-parade-rainer. This female trilogy would curdle better than melted butter poured into vinegar if they didn’t share familial blood flowing in their veins. I felt increasingly connected as Hannah paced through simple survival routines for Minnesota winters, the plugging in and unplugging of block heaters on vehicle engines, breathing through the nose to avoid icing up the window before the defroster begins functioning, etc. Delivering coffee and cookies to a collection of ice fishing houses was a warmth inducing venue in a frozen environment, beautifully exposing the appeal of fresh cookies and hot coffee, and probably highlighted one of the major reasons for the success of this series. In an age of survival-and-reality TV shows, this lively, realistic winter-world in a small, cohesive community easily grabs and satisfies readers. Warm mittens in the back of your mind, sled in hand, cozy up!