I just added Sunny Frazier’s Where Angels Fear to my list of funniest mystery novels (see my list on Amazon.com). The protagonist, Christy Bristol, is bold and brave. What makes her such an appealing character is that these admirably traits clash with her basic personality. Charmingly naïve, repressed and lacking self-confidence, she has to work at doing the right thing. She’d rather stay home and pet her cat than chase a murderer, but she’s such a decent person that she forces herself to do the right thing, often with good results, always with funny ones. The scene where she and her sidekick Lennie go to the novelty shop to buy leather outfits so they can penetrate a sex club to find evidence had me laughing so hard, I had to dry my eyes to read the next page. Lennie is the complete opposite of Christy – brash, confident, and action-oriented. Unfortunately, her lack of inhibitions and short supply of common sense often land her and Christy in dangerous situations. Christy’s insight and intelligence combine to save the duo from calamity, but just barely.
Speaking of intelligence, Christy is demure about hers in a way that shows the author is an astute student of gender issues. Although Where Angels Fear falls under the heading of a ‘cozy’ mystery, there is intellectual heft in this sensitive portrayal of how intelligent women often avoid flaunting their brains in a way most men cannot even see, much less understand.
Because Christy is an astrologer, I wasn’t sure whether this book would resonate with me. I know nothing about astrology and generally have an aversion to anything that tries to peer into the future. Turns out the book would be good even without the astrology. But I was surprised and delighted to find that the astrology angle actually turns a very good book into an excellent one. Christy’s uncanny ability to read people and her telepathy – handled deftly by the author – turns a very good book into a great one.
Sunny Frazier has a gift for drawing characters. Christy and Lennie are people you’ll love getting to know, but even the minor characters are multidimensional, real, and believable. Like a finely staged play, all the characters are a joy to see on stage and each one advances the story. Within ten seconds of reading the final page, I was going online to buy the other book in the Christy Bristol series, and I can’t wait to read it.