Go to Helena Handbasket from Donna Moore is another novel in the comic crime genre and another example of comic crime at its best. This novel is also quite different as it takes you outside the comfort zone of known and expected protocols in crime fiction; the twist here is that (possibly) every one of them is thrown on its head in the best piece of satire I have read in ages.
Here, the baby is indeed thrown out with the bath water and in this case it’s a lot of laughs.
Helena Handbasket is a private eye. She has the certificates to prove it. (Bought via the internet, thus proving her stupidity as she could have created her own using Word or Powerpoint…) But our Helena is not stupid. No. Not at all. She’s just a tad distracted sometimes. She pursues her goals such as finding a hubbie, often in the wrong places and with the wrong gents (the story of many females but this time it’s happening on dangerous territory for Helena). She can rustle up a cocktail in the office or at home as she always has all the supplies at hand and the recipes in her head. Her fridge and kitchen cupboards may be constantly bare, but what’s in them could put Nigella Express to shame as Helena concocts a supper of cordon bleu credentials every time.
Not that Helena’s kitchen is devoid of tinned foods, either. And here we enter crime fiction’s “cosy” category. Read the one about the cat that can detect and solve better than Morse? This little cosy is up for grabs too when it comes to satire. Helena has a cat, Virgil; he’s ahead of the game and able to sort alphabetti spaghetti shapes into messages to keep Helena aware of the risks as she investigates. But Helena’s a human being with a brain and Virgil’s simply a typically messy cat isn’t he? So, she just cleans up and does not notice the messages…
Helena has a sidekick of course. Her name’s Fifi and she speaks English, but not as we know it. Helena does her best on translation…
I’d normally strike into the “in a nutshell” bit now and describe the plot, but it seems secondary to the enjoyment that comes from the writing. Just be assured that there is one. As for enjoyment, Donna Moore’s writing indicates that she had a lot of fun creating this novel; you are laughing with her all the way. She also had fun with the characters’ names. Here’s a sample to let you know the style, including a play on names:
‘“Shit”, said Lee, rummaging through his pockets, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “I haven’t got a light. Sergeant Mungus, have a look through the victim’s pockets and see if he has matches or a lighter, would you?”
“Sure guv.” Hugh Mungus hesitated. “Should I walk carefully round these footprints that lead to and from the body, just in case they’re the killer’s? The footprints leading to the body are a lot deeper than the footprints leading away. It’s as though the person was carrying something heavy, which he put down right where the body is, before walking off again.”
Frank Lee waved the hand holding the cigarette at him. “Nah, don’t bother. They’ll be nothing. Just get me a light, would ya?”‘
This novel is a lot of fun and a very clever and major satire on the crime genre. There is only one category of reader that might take offense: the BMW devotee. Beemers do come in for a bashing here, literally. So be prepared!
Crime fiction satire is in very safe hands with Donna Moore and she makes it easy to catch the bug. More please!