MIAMI PURITY by Vicki Hendricks


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 Hendricks's first is a guilty pleasure, a jolt of '90s female noir so close to the edge you have to wonder if it's another send-up Ö la Naked Came the Stranger. Recent widow Sherri Parlay (yeah, hubby had a little help dying, but it served him right) is ready to hang up the sweaty G- string she's used at Bubbles, where she's had quite a following, and get a day job. The place she picks, the Miami-Purity dry cleaner, is managed by Payne Mahoney, a hunk with clean shirts, Mick Jagger lips, and teeth so white Sherri knows he must be pureplus, he was brought up Catholic. In no time at all Sherri's enticed Payne into defying his jealous mother, Purity owner Brenda Mahoney, by taking her to bed, to beach, to counter, to floor. Hendricks aims for a Jane M. Cain voice, but except for its incidents, which seem cribbed from dogeared copies of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, there's no trace of Cain's deadeyed style. Instead, other models predominate: The sex is graphic and frequent and formulaic, with the kind of prosy glosses Mae West used to deliver: ``He was all I could take, but I could take him over and over.'' Sadly, as in adult cinema, the plotting doesn't carry anything like the conviction of the sex scenes. When mother Brenda looms as a threat to the lovers' NC-17 idyll, Sherri kills herin the book's funniest, most off-kilter episodeand then, against all odds, life goes on...and on and on (highlights: masturbation with a .44, branding with a hot iron, a casual lick from Payne's friendly dog Radar), until the couple is separated not by their mutual guilt but by Payne's fear of commitment. Enter Brian Ball, Sherri's old surfer friend from Bubbles, and Katie, Sherri's predecessor at Miami-Purity; bye- bye, happiness. Like Joyce Maynard's To Die For, a strikingly pure incarnation, though scarcely an analysis, of the banality of evil. Perfect beach reading: Everybody around you will mistake your hours-long blush for a sunburn.

Pub Date: July 21st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-43988-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995


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