by Dixie Kane, contemporary (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7246-5
Dixie Kane's latest offering, Chasing Lily, is a screwball comedy with a touch of (no-brainer) suspense. Since the suspense is DOA, the charm of this book lies solely on the reader's craving for old women acting outrageously to catalyze the plot in motion and stereotypical "good girl" and "Sam Spade" hero (his name is Sam Spade) antics to carry itself high on the bestseller lists. The rather awful start of the book may put some readers off though, as is it whacky oddball old lady premise, but if they try to hold their breath a little longer, Chasing Lily soon settles into a comfortable rhythm to entertain quite pleasantly.
Lily Redmond is a good girl heroine. She's engaged to a dullard, she doesn't break the rules, and she's loyal to a fault to her family. In short, she's the perfect docile poodle one could expect to dash into a burning building and barbecue itself in an attempt to save poor Scottie. Her grandmother Lillian Redmond, whom Lily is named after, however, is a self-described "free spirit". Granny Lillian used to be an actress until her studio boss was murdered and her reputation got tainted from the ensuing media circus that resulted. Today, Lillian is finally going to solve the murder and even better, write a tell-all book about it! Needless to say, Lily, some politicians, and Archie Hunter are not amused.
Archie was the PI who was involved in the murder case. Upon hearing that Granny Lillian is trying to resurrect the case, he jumps into the fray and sets after Granny Lillian. Archie's son Sam Spade Hunter, not amused either, hops along to chase after his father. He finds Granny Lillian, but the woman slips sleeping pills into Sam's coffee, cuffs him to her bed, and flees the house, leaving Lily to find Sam in that humiliating position. Soon Lily and Sam are chasing after their respective grandmother and father.
Sam and Lily spark and so do Lillian and Archie. If you are not amused by inter-generational family inbreeding and you cannot contemplate the idea of marrying a man even as your grandmother marries his father, just imagine that these bunch of people are actually sheep. Or rednecks from whichever country that happens to be the brunt of this week's inbreeding jokes.
The first few chapters are not promising at all. The introductory scenes jump from location to location and are quite haphazardly written. Also, Lily starts out a complete scatterbrain. She sees Sam handcuffed to her grandmother's bed and immediately goes on the defensive: Grandmother Lillian does not handcuff people and she doesn't slip sleeping stuff into people's drinks! No, Lily, Sam just happens to handcuff himself to your grandmother's bed to amuse himself. She's a complete stereotype when it comes to the good girl archetype, from boring boyfriend accessory right down to the whole "I can't be fun" personality. Sam also starts out pretty stereotypical as a too-sexy guy who gets sexually harassed by his successive female employees at the PI agency and who doesn't want to love again ever.
The pleasant surprise comes from Granny Lillian - she isn't the stereotypical kooky wacky old dingbat performing convoluted Machiavellian matchmaking schemes: she truly is a woman bent on one last mission in a blaze of glory before she behaves her age. I question the rationale of Granny Lillian's schemes, but she's a woman who's bent on living life to the fullest - for herself and not for her grandchildren. I love that. Archie is her pleasant match. Their interactions have a flirtatious, very youthful quality to them, and I have plenty of fun following these two geezers. The looks on the young ones face when they realize the geezers are getting it on are amusing, to say the least.
As the story progresses, Sam and Lily start to sparkle. Their chemistry is there, but the way they behave and talk to each other bring out the best in their personalities. Even when the author is resorting to the more dubious contrivances in her developing the relationships of her main characters, Sam and Lily still manage to remain endearing to me. These two never transcend their stereotypical roots, but Lily begins to relax and show some fine adventurous spirits while Sam starts bending his stereotypical personality to endear himself to me. Readers may have troubles with Lily's willingness to sleep with Sam even as she is engaged to another man and her anger at Sam for not wanting to play along, but it's okay with me: I never assumed Lily is in any way that intelligent and this silly justification of her lust for Sam as a quickie thing is right down her alley as a dingbat stereotype.
Chasing Lily is a rare book where the geezers in love actually steal the show from the younger, more good-looking couple. Still, there are plenty of fun and bounce to go around after the book has overcome its shaky start. Chasing Lily may not be too earthshatteringly original story, but it will make a perfect light and breezy feel-good read.
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