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Helen Hath No Fury
ISBN 034542932X / 9780345429322 / 0-345-42932-X
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Helen Hath No Fury, the latest outing in Gillian Roberts's Amanda Pepper series (which also includes, most recently, The Bluest Blood and Adam and Evil), finds the Philly Prep English teacher in familiar territory, negotiating the strong egos and stronger opinions of the members of her book club. When, after reading The Awakening, Helen Coulter vehemently denounces heroine Edna Pontellier's suicide as the ultimate cop-out, no one is surprised by her assertiveness (Helen makes sandpaper seem soft). But her plunge from the roof of her house the very next day comes as an awakening of the rudest sort. Although her death is ruled a suicide, the book-club members aren't buying it. When Amanda heads up an unofficial team of sleuths, she quickly realizes that her fellow booklovers have a great deal to hide--from Helen's business partner's bizarre financial dealings to a politician's wife's unsavory past. But are their secrets worth killing to keep?
People simply aren't what they seem, and that's enough to make Amanda long for order and precision: "I envision us like billiard balls--one gets poked and the rest of us are pushed into new and unexpected positions. My version of chaos theory. But now, I renounced happenstance. I became a devout cause-and-effect believer. I needed to." As always, she enlists cop and live-in amour C.K. Mackenzie (attention to devoted fans: the mystery of those darned initials will be solved at last!) to help her ferret out the truth.
What is usually a winning combination for Roberts--breezy humor and a lighthearted writing style--falls a little flat in this latest effort. Amanda reminds one of Lucille Ball--sardonic, goodhearted, a trifle insecure, and completely incapable of standing peacefully by when an opportunity to leap in and meddle presents itself. She has a finely honed sense of irony and an equally sharp appreciation of the absurd. This time around, her appeal is oddly muted; she seems less interested and less interesting, content to repeat ad nauseam her fervent desire for matters to improve and to dither about whether her newly kindled interest in marriage means that she is (gasp!) becoming her mother. With any luck, this stint in the narrative doldrums will be temporary, and the old Amanda will soon return with all sails flying. --Kelly Flynn [via]