Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Winter Women Murders: Slightly Spoilerish Review

The Winter Women Murders by David A. Kaufelt (1995): [from the back of the book] For nearly fifty years, the Waggs Neck Harbor Annual Literary Arts Symposium (ALAS) had been dedicated to the cultural enrichment of the winter women, the upper middle-class ladies who lived in the resort town year round. But when the founder and chair of ALAS took a fatal tumble into the next world, the group took a radical turn. Against her better judgment, real-estate lawyer and reluctant sleuth Wyn Lewis is volunteered to tend to one of the featured speakers, Keny Blue--a bestselling author of feminist romance novels expounding a brave new world of sexual freedom. When Wyn found Keny dead in bed wearing nothing but a wire around her neck, there were several suspects. Dickie ffrench, the interior designer who had moonlighted as Keny's ghost writer, took exception when Keny cut him off from that lucrative sideline. Peter Robaliniski--incoming director of ALAS and a seasoned "gentleman in waiting"--feared that Keny might expose the secret life they once shared. Even Keny's arch rival and fellow Symposium speaker, feminist Sondra Mercy Confrit, was not above suspicion.

All in all, Wyn would prefer to be at home with some take-out Chinese, an old movie, and her boyfriend Tommy. But the murder investigation just won't go away--and she's learning that in peaceful Waggs Neck if something sinful can happen, it most likely will....

My Take:
Pro Tip for guys writing books with lead female protagonists (especially when writing about their love life): The average woman is not nearly as enthralled with the awesome "beauty" of your "private member" (his word, not mine) as you are. Yes, there are women who are exceptions. And, yes, even average women may have moments that are exceptions. But--generally speaking, we're far more impressed with what you can do with it (with our enthusiastic participation) than we are with how it looks. In fact, quite often we think it looks more like this:

So, don't write love scenes that have the lady there in bed admiring the general awesomeness before her (and giving us her thoughts on the matter) for what, in book time, seems like eons. She's more likely wondering why he's doesn't come to bed and suit the action to the moment rather than posing like a model in Playgirl. Especially if you're writing what purports to be a cozy mystery and not soft porn.

As you might suspect from that opener on my thoughts, this book was not nearly as good as hoped for. When I picked it up at the Friends of the Library used bookstore, it looked like it would be a nice cozy mystery. But it has very rough edges. Nastier murder scenes than usual in cozies and I think Kaufelt would do better to focus on male lead characters. He just doesn't do women's characters well on the whole (and, again, there are exceptions)--most of them sound like men in disguise. And the romance for Wyn Lewis? That sudden resolution several months later is a bit odd....just saying. 

I think it's telling that most of the "rave" reviews quoted on the cover and the intro pages are from male reviewers. The characters are probably behaving just like they expect women to (or wish women would). To give him his due, he did create at least one very believable and interesting female character. Sophie Comfort Noble. Unfortunately, he killed her off before we could enjoy her properly. This isn't nearly as spoilerish as you might think--she's gone in the first chapter. But her brief moment onstage was a good one and she absolutely could have carried the show. Wyn is also a fairly good representation that just misses being very good--if he hadn't insisted on dragging her love-life into the story, that would have helped matters.

The mystery starts out fairly well, but it didn't stay mysterious very long and I even saw the extra twist coming. This is one I'm glad to have done and to take off the stacks taking over my house. ★★

Complete list of challenges fulfilled: Mount TBR Challenge, Calendar of Crime, Monthly Key Word, Alphabet Soup Authors, Alphabet Soup, Craving for Cozies, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies, Century of Books, Book Challenge, Cloak & Dagger, Print Only, Outdo Yourself, How Many Books,


Jacquie said...

Thanks for the warning on this one. I had a copy and yes, it had rave reviews, but that mole rat convinced me to purge it. Haha.

Bev Hankins said...

Jacqueline--in all seriousness, that scene is probably shorter than I remember. BUT it stuck with me (unfortunately) and overshadowed the book in a way that made the reading experience far less enjoyable.