Fitzgerald, Helen - 'Dead Lovely'
I don't think I have ever read a book quite like this one before, and it slips down a treat - like an ice-cream with a vindaloo centre. Chick-lit noir has truly arrived in the shape of DEAD LOVELY, in which social worker Krissie conceives a child in the toilets of a night club in Ibiza with an apparently attractive stranger - who rapidly loses his appeal when Krissie comes down from her high and sees that the stars are really dust mites or worse.
Returning to her native Glasgow, Robbie (Krissie's baby) soon arrives and changes her comfortable, free-wheeling, single lifestyle by introducing responsibility, a concept as alien to Krissie as ballooning would be to a shark, despite her professional role as assessing parental suitability among the city's many dispossessed.
Helen Fitzgerald treads a clever balancing act between edgy, trendy noir and sympathy with her heroine's predicament. The first part of the story is told through Krissie's eyes, but when her mothering skills become truly appalling, we shift to seeing her from the perspective of other characters, and are hence reassured that she has a heart of gold.
The plot, such as it is, involves a hiking holiday with Krissie's two best friends, Sarah, a childhood schoolmate, and Kyle, a student flatmate who fancies her, and she him, but he is now married to Sarah. A further complication is Chas, the third student flatmate who has been in prison for ten years for apparently randomly attacking a man with a shopping trolley and refusing to provide any reason to the police.
Predictably, the holiday is a disaster, not only ending prematurely in the sense of the characters returning home early, but in the sense that is final for one of them - but which? The reader is kept guessing in some clever twists and turns. Krissie's panic at how to cope with the inevitable collapse of the creaking house of cards of her life, and her inability to cope with her baby, add to the tension of the holiday's hideous climax.
This book is very funny. It is hard to make a joke of parental neglect, but somehow Helen Fitzgerald manages it in this scurrilous but good-natured, easy-reading tale. Yes, the eventual ending is somewhat contrived and rather too "romance genre" for my taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed the hectic and chaotic ride, and recommend this refreshing voice for anyone who fancies something a bit different.
Maxine Clarke, England