Can a suspense novelist begin a double life as a weekly humor columnist? Just ask Scottoline (Look Again, 2009, etc.), who collects some 70 “Chick Wit” columns she wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Such a venture is not a huge stretch for a writer whose novels of legal suspense have always depended as much on witty dialogue as on mysterious plots. Scottoline’s choice of topics is impressively broad: movie-theater candy, expensive bras, Valentine’s Day, the upside of interrupting (“I would never be so rude as to not interrupt a friend. How else would she know I was listening?”), the sensual joys of hot flashes and the dream of getting tattooed. As both her choice of topics and her title make clear, men like Thing One and Thing Two, her ex-husbands, form no part of the target audience of this “mix tape for moms and girls.” Scottoline’s tics—her promises to get “back to the point,” her wild exaggerations, her sententious kickers—will prevent all but her most ardent fans from trying to read this compilation at a single sitting. Her habit of referring to her nearest and dearest by epithets (“Mother Mary,” “Daughter Francesca,” “best friend Franca”) inhibits the growth of intimacy. Though she’s touchingly matter-of-fact on the death of her beloved dog, more formal occasions for serious wisdom like a graduation speech or a reflection on mortality take her out past her depth. When she sticks to homely observations on Starbucks, cougars, or real-estate ads, however, she’s shrewd, tart, sensitive and hard to resist.
Proof that a successful genre novelist can also succeed in an apparently remote field.