Simply Marvelous
by Shelby Lewis, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-218-5


Eeep.

I really don't know what to make of Simply Marvelous. I really don't, serious! I've only read one other book by this author, and like that book, Simply Marvelous is eccentric and even bizarre. It is as if Ms Lewis is marching along to some tune she hears only in her head, while wearing a dress only a poodle can pull off, and dang if she isn't having a good time at it. I want to applaud her, really, if I'm not so bewildered by this book.

Florist Daisy Rogers and PI Kenneth "Yes, It's That Big" Gunn are already having a thing when this story starts. Nice, I think - now here's a change of rhythm. Besides, who says a romance novel has to kick off in the usual boy-hates-girl, boy-uses-girl, boy-marries girl formula anyway?

Daisy doesn't want to get married because she doesn't trust marriages. Not that it'll be a big issue here, because the author has a different cha-cha-cha to dance to, as we'll see later. When Kenneth drops by at Daisy's place (they are doing the long-distance thing) and Daisy is putting up her first ever exhibition in a grand flower show, the VIP Kandi Kane drops dead. Oh no, whodunnit?

I say it's Kandi's daughter Sugar, who murdered her mother for saddling her with that name. Sugar Kane, of all things! You'd think Kandi Kane should have known better.

Daisy and Kenny just have to investigate the matter, of course. And they soon learn that Kandi and Sugar ain't that sweet, there are enemies hiding in the buttercup shrubs, et cetera.

But if only this is a straightforward romantic suspense. The author has this tendency to go on and on at what seems like random compulsion on matters irrelevant to the story. There are speeches about education, marriages, housewives versus career women, and other stuff that seem to be sparked off whenever the author feels like rambling. Hey, I've spent time with friends and family members that are like this, especially when the night is late and someone pays for all the drinks, but I am rather taken aback at opening a romance novel and getting instead my loony Auntie May who is 90 and counting.

There's also a rather bizarre charm to the mystery, who is very obviously linear. It's like reading those silly old Nancy Drew and Hardy "No, We're Not Gay, Really!" Boys mysteries all over again. The author even helpfully provides the actual printout of cryptic clues left on mysterious notes dropped on the scene of crime. Really, it's been so long since I read of a mystery where the fiends leave cute clues, The Three Investigators and The Famous Five style. Come to think of it, The Three Investigators is a damn good series, isn't it? Although I never did can figure out the nature of Alfred Hitchcock's involvement in that series. I had a crush on all three of those guys, much to my mortification because I wasn't that young when I read those books.

Ahem. Oh yeah, back to this book. I like it. I will be the first to say that it's not exactly a kosher masterpiece or even decent mystery, but it's so bizarre and outlandishly weird that I just have to be charmed.

This reminds me of another embarrassing crush I had on this circus boy named Barney and an equally scampy lad named Snubby and... I think I'll go dig up those good ol' kiddie books from my storeroom. I hope the cockroaches haven't made a meal out of them by now.

Rating: 60


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