It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)

Go to Helena Handbasket – Donna Moore

Gthh 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!


4 comments on “Go to Helena Handbasket – Donna Moore

  1. chemrat
    November 10, 2007

    What a great review- it makes me want to read the book, but I enjoyed the review itself tremendously.
    I sometimes struggle with crime and humor combinations, though I find they fail more often in movies than books- the violence in movies can be very discordant with humor for me, unless done by a director who is a real artist.
    I’ve been writing much more on the environment than on fiction, which may continue for a while. I feel some obligation to write about the environment because of my training (as a scientist, mainly in chemistry), while books are sheer pleasure. At least I’m building up an even bigger backlog of things to write about, though my reading rate has dropped a lot, too. Time, time, time …
    Best wishes, Jim

  2. Clare D
    November 10, 2007

    I agree with Jim – great review CFR. Sounds like an excellent Christmas present – just what we need this gloomy time of year to cheer us up.

  3. Donna
    November 10, 2007

    Thank you for the wonderful review – I have had a happy glow since I read it! I’m really glad you enjoyed it, I had fun writing it, as you pointed so rightly pointed out.

  4. crimeficreader
    November 10, 2007

    Donna, as I said – it was a joy to read and “more please”. Enjoy your “happy glow”
    Jim, thanks for the comments, including the compliments! I’d struggled with the crime and humour mix for years, so I know what you mean. It just seemed anathema to me. But then I discovered Peter Guttridge and it was nice to revisit my youth – the time when I was simply learning and doing little else, so I knew a bit about King Arthur and his round table (which came up in one of Guttridge’s books). Reading his novels, I also discovered that crime and humour can make a combo, much like putting a piece of pineapple on the top of a savoury pizza! Yes, it can work. Anathema over.
    Len (L C) Tyler’s The Herring Seller’s Apprentice, which I read recently is a cracking crime and humour combo. Donna’s Go to Helena Handbasket is an absolutely wonderful exercise in satire for the (take me seriously) crime genre.
    It’s so good to be entertained and have a laugh at the same time.
    There is life out there – not as we know it – but we can get the bug!
    Clare, thanks for your comment. I really think you’d enjoy this novel (and L C Tyler’s). The humour in both is right up your street!

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on November 9, 2007 by in Books.