Good Graces

By Leslie Kagen

(Dutton, 2011)

Leslie Kagen’s latest novel, Good Graces, the sequel to her best-selling Whistling in the Dark, is a juicy, hilarious, salty, sexy grown-up version of Nancy Drew. You’ll be drawn in immediately by the O’Malley sisters, Sally and Troo and the whole Milwaukee neighborhood where, beneath the humor and the small town life, you learn, right in the preface, that amidst county fairs and church suppers and childhood play, there will be murder-most-foul. And Kagen writes such a nifty plot that you won’t even be sure who will be murdered until the end when you’ll wish that there were hundreds of pages more.

“The devil is in the details,” Donny O’Malley, Sally and Troo’s father had told them before he died in a car crash. And devilish details you will get. You’ll find out just what the town is gossiping about. Sally, the narrator, is so un-PC that you may hawk a loogie when you hear her goings on about Polacks and Goombas and Homo Henry.

The details also bring us into a time capsule of the fifties where one character throws Dina Shore kisses and the kids eat button candy off of paper strips and chew on jujubes and Snirkle Bars and play Mumbly Peg and watch Senor Wences on the Ed Sullivan show. You’ll be reminded of blouses with Peter Pan-collars and muuu-muus and Evening in Paris cologne.

Kagen has assembled a huge cast of characters, including the town which smelled of cookies from the local factory. But Kagen miraculously pulls all of them together with their individual stories into a big sprawling howl of a book that will make you go back to read Whistling in the Dark and search the bestseller list for her next novel, which probably is already in the works. Since Kagen is an actress, a voice-over talent, a restauranteur, and a mother of two who published her first novel at age 57, you’ll be sure she won’t waste any time.

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