Monday, June 06, 2016

Antiques Fate -- Barbara Allan

It's no secret that I'm a fan of this series starring Vivian and Brandy Borne, as I've reviewed quite a few of the books previously.  It's also no secret that "Barbara Allan" is, in reality, a mild-mannered reporter for a great . . . no, wait, I'm getting a little confused.  It's no secret that Barbara Allan is, in reality, Barbara and Max Allan Collins.

As you regular readers know, Vivian and Brandy are a mother-and-daughter (okay, not really; it's complicated) team of antiques dealers and amateur sleuths, sort of like Nick and Nora Charles, but with less booze and more drugs (totally legal, of course -- lithium Prozac, and insulin).  The little dog on the cover is Sushi (who gets the insulin), not Asta.

While waiting for production to begin on their reality TV series, Vivian and Brandy take a trip to Old York, a determinedly retro town, where Vivian is going to perform her one-woman show of Macbeth, or as she prefers to call it even when not in the theater, "the Scottish play."  She'll distinguish each character with a different hat.  Vivian is as self-confident as any woman in fiction.  She knows she'll be a smash hit.

[Aside: I once saw Howard Waldrop do a reading of "Thirty Minutes over Broadway! Jetboy's Last Adventure," his only story in George R. R. Martin's Wild Card series, by using this technique.  It was swell.]

You won't be surprised to learn that almost as soon as Vivian and Brandy arrive in Old York, people start to die in ways that appear accidental but that Vivian is sure are murder.  (Her self-confidence isn't limited to her faith in her thespic talents.)  The results of her and Brandy's investigations are both hilarious and suspenseful, and Vivian does get to perform the Scottish play, with unexpected results.

The small-town politics and characters all ring true, and laughs abound.  Most of the book is told in the first-person by Brandy, but Vivian always gets one chapter.  Here she gets a bit more, and there's some wonderfully funny meta material in her parts of the book.  As usual, this one is highly recommended.

[Aside #2: Reading this was a little spooky, as I'm just about to finish writing a Sheriff Rhodes book called Dead, to Begin With, which is about a murder in a small-town theater and in which the victim dies in much the same way as one of the victims in Antiques Fate.  Purely coincidental, which is why I'm mentioning it here.  I wouldn't want you to read my book in 2017 and think I stole anything.]


Deb said...

Don't worry about the similarities, Bill. I recall when (I think) both Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill published books within a few months of each other where a body was found when a quarry was drained. Robinson said in several interviews that he was worried readers would assume he'd copied that element from Hill, but the books were so totally different in plot and tone, I'm sure most people put it down to the coincidence it so clearly was.

Bill Crider said...

I'm not worried about readers. I just don't want Quarry to visit Alvin.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

As much as I like most of Max Collins's work, this series is not part of that. I read a short story and it was like fingernails on the blackboard for me.

Cap'n Bob said...

When you write about smuggling Mexican illegals I'll think you're a plagiarist, and no sooner.