The Sudden Departure Of The Frasers by Louise Candlish
This is an obvious knock-off of ‘Gone Girl’. Christy and Joe move into their dream house on Lime Park Road. It’s a house they shouldn’t have been able to afford if the previous owners hadn’t suddenly moved away. Christy wonders why the new neighbours will not talk to them and so obsessively delves into the historical pain of the road and the mysterious departure of her predecessor: party girl Amber Fraser who was a spirited woman beloved by all her neighbours.
Just why did the Frasers leave? Why is their once popular neighbour Rob now reviled and dismissed? Why is Christy so interested in the deeply suspect, scathingly disdainful Rob? Why is she so obsessed with Amber and the open admiration in which she is still held?
This is a tale of deteriorating relations (between lovers, spouses and neighbours), erratic behaviour, sub truths, urban humanity and ambiguous attitudes. Christy is dull, nosey and indelicate. Amber is a destroyer of dreams, has a casual attitude to reality and is full of burgeoning consumerism, yet is still inexplicably worshipped by her slightly gone to seed husband. This starts out okay yet descends into sexism and has a nasty undertone.
“A sudden disagreeable image.”
“You just said you chose me!”
“Well, I unchoose you.”
“Cold and mean.”
“People were behaving appallingly.”
“Put on your knickers and go. Please.”
Places: The Journeys Of My Days, My Lives by Thaao Penghlis
This slim book is notionally a biography/travel guide but is just an incoherent jumble of name dropping, backstage gossip and how I got here accounts by the daytime soap star. The hints about his stern father are less discussed in favour of rambling about psychics. The cultural impact of his Greek heritage does interest but the tales told are so non-linear you have no idea what is going on. This disappointed.
The Second Lady by Irving Wallace
This dated 1980 thriller tells the bizarre tale of how inept spies plan to replace The First Lady with a Soviet double. This, in the days before DNA tests, will be undetectable. Due to a really incompetent secret service, the switch goes ahead. The plot isn’t even notionally plausible. The POTUS seems incredibly thick, the Soviets obsess over the made up country of Boende, White House staffers run around in defiance of the system, the First Lady’s doctor has no concept of medical confidentiality and the dual First Ladies try to come up with sustainable solutions to their plight.
This was unbearably horribly jarring and unconvincing. There is a bizarre view on sex and plot holes galore like a character carrying contraception despite trying for a baby. There are dated references to the ERA, cassette tape, a television satellite, film tapes, records, a reel of tape and a videotape machine. Add in bad writing, causal racism, xenophobia, exposition dumps, homophobia and this was silly and offensive though the ending is memorable.
“Gave herself a deranged look.”
“He was becoming outraged.”
“Are - you part of this? You seemed so nice yesterday, the day before.”
“She was in the lair of the enemy, on her own without allies.”
“That vile little faker.”
“The whorehouse works.”
“He was certain that she was outside, very quiet, listening for more.”