Sex, Murder And A Double Latte
by Kyra Davis
(Red Dress Ink, $17.95, G) ISBN 0-373-89519-4
****
With her debut novel, Kyra Davis has hit one out of the park. Red Dress Ink may be onto something with their recent experimentation in chick lit and mystery hybrid novels.

When mystery novelist Sophie Katz isn’t penning her latest best seller, she’s feeding her caffeine addiction at Starbucks and calming explaining to people that no she’s not Egyptian or Polynesian – she’s half black, half Jewish. However it’s right around the time she finishes her latest book that she gets very bad news. The famous Hollywood producer who was in interested in the screenplay of her first book, Sex, Drugs and Murder has died. Seems the poor man was depressed about his wife leaving him and committed suicide.

And that’s when things start to get really weird. Sophie gets an ominous note in the mail and she suspects someone has been breaking into her apartment. Even worse, the events unfolding around her are identical to the events that unfolded around her heroine in Sex, Drugs and Murder. Does Sophie have a crazed fan stalking her? Problem is, the police don’t believe her since all she has is circumstance and supposition. But could this whole business be somehow tied in to the murder of a famous gangster rapper back in New York, and the apparent suicide of a movie producer? And what’s with the mysterious Russian hottie, Anatoly Darinsky, who’s taken an active interest in her?

This story is a winner right out of the gate with a fantastic title and opening chapter, where Sophie tells the reader of her Jewish mother’s reaction to the steamy sex scenes in her books. It’s an engaging opening and one that sucks the reader in immediately. It also helps that Sophie has a very engaging chick lit style voice. She’s sarcastic, funny, and comes up with the best zippy one-liners. However, that doesn’t mean she lacks depth. She’s a resourceful woman who realizes that she’s going to have to help herself if she wants to ever feel safe again.

Davis writes in plenty of secondary characters to keep the mystery humming along and provides more than enough red herrings. There’s the two best friends (one naïve, one sex toy shop owner), the fabulous gay hair stylist, the guy who wants to be a vampire, and of course the mysterious Anatoly – a man Sophie spends the whole novel trying to figure out. Mix in Sophie’s semi-wacky family and it makes for a fun time.

This all sounds fairly zany – but Sex, Murder And A Double Latte doesn’t have the frantic nature that tend to inflict stories of this type. The mystery is also a nice touch, with Sophie hitting various dead-ends and red herrings in her sleuthing. While I put it together before she did, motive was still a mysterious until all was revealed at the finish line.

As a reviewer who has never quite gotten the whole chick lit phenomena (how many Jimmy Choos does a heroine need? Honestly.), reading Davis’ debut was a bit like having a light bulb go off in my head. So this is why so many readers love books like this? If you’re already a chick lit fan, run, don’t walk to pick up this very fine debut. There are plenty of laughs to go along with a fun mystery. And for the rest of us – prepare to be converted. Write fast Ms. Davis. Write fast.

--Wendy Crutcher


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