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Diary of a Confessions Queen: A Plum of a Book

June 1, 2010

Diary of a Confessions Queen
Kathy Carmichael
Medallion Press
$12.95,  350 pages

This was another BEA pick. Independence, Kansas, is a tiny and insular town. Everyone knows that Amy Crosby’s husband, Dan, disappeared seven years ago, walking home from a chess match at the local bar. Everyone knows that Dan, an inventor of quirky household gadgets, has been missing since.  And Amy has been trying to make her own way, writing “true confessions” for magazines. So- when Amy begins the court proceedings to have her husband declared legally dead, and use the insurance money to save the house from foreclosure, nobody is surprised.

The blackmail note Amy gets, claiming Dan is alive? And the house burglaries? They come as a surprise.

A smart-mouthed female narrator somewhat inept as she brushes against danger, in a close-knit regional community? Fierce independence combined with a whimsical streak? Amy Crosby, trying to get closure and a solution to her husband’s murder, reminds me a lot of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.  Even to the man-juggling between Brad Tyler, the  sexy cop, and the wealthy but overprotective businessman Jerome, reminds me of Stephanie Plum’s Ranger/Morelli indecision.

It’s a fun mystery, with plenty of suspense and surprises, and some excellent whimsy. Seances, a domineering and batty next door neighbor; Amy’s mother in law, who makes the next-door neighbor look rational. Dan’s oddball inventions. One, slightly tongue-in-cheek quibble of unreality…. while I love the setup that Amy makes a living writing persona pieces of “true confessions,” I have trouble believing that, with attempts on her life, and her husband’s murder to mourn and solve, Amy is able to do that much writing.

By tracing all the comparisons between Amy’s small-town sarcasm and Stephanie Plum, I don’t mean to say that Diary of a Confessions Queen is derivative. In fact, I hope the similarities draw new readers to Kathy Carmichael’s novel. You’re not likely to find a mechanic named Ecclesiastes in Evanovich’s Trenton, but both Carmichael and Evanovich explore the humor and suspense possibilities of a determined female narrative in an insular community. (Having written that last sentence– I have to laugh at myself. I’ve got Bones on TV in the background, and it’s affecting my prose!)

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