The lovely Suman Seewat told me I needed to read this book and as usual, she was right. Any book that is comped to the movie Fargo has my immediate attention. One has to wonder if that fantastic cover from HarperTeen is a nod to the cross-stitching in the Fargo movie poster:
In any case, well done! In a never-ending sea of sci-fi and dystopia, a contemporary murder mystery in small town America was a welcome break in my reading.
The gruesome murder of homecoming queen Ruth Fried has everyone in Friendship, Wisconsin on edge. But no one is more confused or guilt-ridden than Ruth’s best friend, Kippy. I have a sneaking suspicion that Hale has seen and loved the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous*, as the setting, dialect, combo of comedy and murder, and a reference to Diane Sawyer immediately brought the classic dark comedy to mind.
This one is wacky in the best possible way. Black comedy is hard to pull off, particularly in print, but debut author Kathleen Hale manages to walk the fine line between horrifying and funny very well. Much of the humour comes from the dialect and syntax of the residents of Friendship, Kippy in particular. To get a taste of Kippy’s insights and delightful oddness, check out her character blog here. She is one odd duck, given to awkward conversations (especially with Davey, the slightly unhinged brother of the deceased and possible love interest) and making unusual fashion statements (to be fair, it’s cold in Wisconsin and difficult to find flattering turtlenecks and sweaters. This is something we understand in Canada).
Not everything is kooky or a set-up for a joke. There are a few elements that offer depth and insight to an otherwise over-the-top story. Kippy and her father have a close relationship. Neither have fully recovered from the death of Kippy’s mother, but their mutual understanding and the lengths they go to in order to be careful of the other’s feelings is touching and a surprising moment of honesty. I also enjoyed how Hale reveals Ruth to be a duplicitous and at times cruel person, which doesn’t justify her murder, but instead highlights how vibrant and full of life Ruth had been, which seems to make her death even sadder.
Perhaps it’s the comp to Fargo or how much it reminded me of Drop Dead Gorgeous, but I kept imagining No one Else Can Have You as a movie, one of those under the radar quirky dark comedies that I can’t get enough of and always seem to do well at Sundance, if nowhere else. If you are not offended by funny murder mysteries or are looking for something totally different to cleanse your palate, this winner is for you.
No one Else Can Have You is available now in hardcover from HarperCollins.
*And who hasn’t? Drop Dead Gorgeous is perfection.