Tour’s Books Blog

September 25, 2009

Book Review: Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss by Kyra Davis

  • Title: Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss
  • Author: Kyra Davis
  • Type: Chick Lit Mystery
  • Genre: Semi-comic amateur sleuth
  • Sub-genre: Series with mystery writer sleuth
  • My Grade: B (4*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold

Yes Virginia, there are still clever amateur sleuth mysteries out there, they’re just awful hard to find.  A once respected genre of the mystery family, cozies have gotten a bad name with me thanks to the rash of moronic books that now dominate the market.  Classic cozies by superb writers like Rhys Bowen, Victoria Thompson, Jacqeline Windspear have fallen to the glitzy, glassy, brainless, annoying pile of clones doing too-stupid-to-live fashionista mysteries or Stephanie Plum wannabe’s complete with a cast of crazed friends.  Even Lisa Lutz’s very original Spellman series was weak in the most recent entry.  Somehow, chick-lit mysteries have come to dominate the cozy market.  Yes, there are bright spots thanks mostly to older authors who still think a mystery is supposed to be A MYSTERY, not an idiot vehicle for nutty family antics or a bemoaning tribute to longing for $400 shoes and designer dresses.  Some series started off well, but recent entries went down the tubes (Gemma Halliday) and some never got off the ground (Rhonda Pollero).  A very few have held onto a consistent performance – Ellen Byerrum’s Crimes of Fashion does an excellent job with this genre and Nancy Martin is usually OK, though the series is inconsistent – others hope like hell to just cash in on the craze.  Granted, this is the first Kyra Davis book I’ve read, and fourth in her Sophie Katz series, but it was GOOD!

Sophie Katz is finally making enough money as a mystery writer to look into buying her own home in San Francisco.  She and Anatoly Darinsky, her Russian American PI boyfriend (Chick lit mystery heroines usually have a cop or PI boyfriend.  Spec ops, or a RARE reformed hood is allowed.  No dentists or accounts need apply.) want to move in together and she wants a solid investment for the money from her books – and please dear God, parking for BOTH their cars!  Even with a million dollar budget, about the best she can hope for is complete wreck that needs a ton of money to make it habitable.  She is visiting one of these million+ dollar hovels with a lot of other potential buyers and has the misfortune to run into her sleazy ex-husband, realtor Scott Colvin.  In a desperate attempt to avoid him she all buts runs for it, but he sticks like a burr and offers the one thing she wants more than his eternal suffering – a fully restored Victorian row house in a great neighborhood with parking – for well below market value!  There has to be a catch, right?  Why would this slimy, conniving liar offer this house to her to supposedly to make amends for his shabby treatment of her in their married life and crappy divorce?  Has his body been taken over by another person?  Who cares, it sounds like the house of her dreams!  One that’s too good to be true.  You know what they say about things that look too good to be true.

Sophie meets Scott at the house at night for a tour.  The owner seems awful anxious to sell to allow an 8PM tour.  Scott’s confused by the re-arrangement of the furniture, but hey, the owner is obviously eccentric.  Sophia falls in love in minutes – complete and total lusting love – for the house.  The restoration was fabulous, the house just the right size and exactly what she’s been looking for – at an insanely low price, by SF standards anyway.  The master bedroom would be perfect – except, the owner is dead on the floor.  Sophie isn’t worried about someone dying in her dream house, especially since it looks like natural causes, she is worried that she won’t be able to buy the house from the family because they won’t honor the price.  But next night Scott meets Sophie and her friend Dena, owner of an adult ‘toy’ store, he says the owners son, Kane, will honor the price to her only.  Kane is convinced the not only does she want the house, the house wants her.  The catch?  She must become a lifetime member of the San Fransisco Specter Society.  Disturbingly, Kane, Scott and Scott’s latest girlfriend-sugarmomma, Venus, are all members.  An hour or two twice a month and the house is hers.  There is a benefit – Enrico Risso, one of the top 20 chefs in the US is a member and usually has them sample a dish he’s creating.

Nothing is as simple as it seems.  Venus is a half bubble off plumb, the house seems haunted and then her mother, a nice Jewish Brooklyn girl who came to SF after the death of her first husband, enjoyed the free-wheeling indecent fun, then met the man who was the father of her daughters,  proceeds to tell her that she KNOWS this house.  Sophie and her sister Leah thought it a happy marriage, but a Jewish woman and a black professor had a lot of problems.  He converted and changed his name to Katz.  His family thought she was a witch and her’s was none too pleased she married a black man.  It was her beloved father’s death and the awful loss Sophie faced that lead her marry that idiot Scott – who then ran through her inheritance, hocked her jewelry to pay a bookie named Vinny, and ran around screwing every woman he could find.   Suddenly Sophie’s world goes upside down as her mother tells her the rough patch her marriage hit with their beloved late father culminating in a renewal of their vows in the very house Sophie bought.  Her father was trying to buy when Oscar, the owner she found dead, suddenly left his wife and moved back in, refusing to sell.  Sophie has the house she wanted as a child.

More determined than ever to keep her new home, Sophie becomes convinced she isn’t going mad and the house isn’t haunted.  A human is trying to drive her out of her dream home, a home that just keeps meaning more to her each day, especially now that’s she’s heard her mother’s story.  But something, or more likely someone, is determined to get her out, dead or alive.  Sophie is convinced it’s Kane, Oscar’s son by the woman he deserted.  Besides, Kane is trying to set Sophie up so escrow can’t close, even though she already moved in and started unpacking.  What the hell is going on?

This book has a bit of something for everyone – a bi-racial Jewish heroine, motorcycle riding Russian American PI boyfriend, an ex-husband who gets screwed as deserves – not like he wants, a best friend who picks up college student busboys for wild recreational sex, a Jewish mother who uses all the Yiddish slang you could ever want, a divorced sister who worries about her babysitter charging $22/hr and quotes Israeli law, a nice gay friend, strange voices, moving furniture, and a possible murderer who might just be too smart to get caught and has her scheduled for his next victim – and the memory of strawberry lip gloss, all capped by a surprising double ending.  The dialogue is often witty, the relationship between Sophie and her mother and sister rings true, though mom is just a shade too much Jewish mother at times.  And Sophie is an intelligent, self-reliant woman who doesn’t obsess over the latest designer fashion!   With the story told in the first person, as most of these are, that’s important.  Plus, there’s no stupid slapstick comedy that includes dogs or monkeys.  That’s something of a new ‘must’ for me thanks to Janet Evanovich.  The story moves well, though occasionally the dialogue can be a shade ‘lecturing’ for informal conversation.   This was what I think all chick lit mysteries should be, a true amateur sleuth, good ensemble cast, an intelligent, capable heroine, wit, colorful characters who don’t take over the story burying the mystery in their idiot antics, solid plot, and a neat twist at the end.  Recommended read!


1 Comment »

  1. I’m so glad you liked the book! I really enjoyed writing Lust, Loathing And a Little Lip Gloss and to date it is my favorite of the Sophie books (Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights follows as a close second). Hopefully my next novels will be as fun and engaging.

    Comment by Kyra Davis — September 26, 2009 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

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