Lesley Crewe’s latest novel is about the bonds of friends and family – and the butt-kicking potential of a little pepper spray and a lot of frothing maternal instinct.
Best friends Bette, Gemma, Augusta, and Linda set out for a long weekend in New York City – a break from their Montreal lives, and a celebration of their 40th birthdays. The plan: shopping, theatre, and a stay at the Waldorf, all charged to a cheating husband’s Visa Platinum.
But when Bette accidentally swaps bags with a diamond smuggler in La Guardia airport, and Gemma kills a gangster with pepper spray under an overpass, the therapeutic vacation takes a dark turn. And as if illicit diamonds and dead bodies weren’t scary enough, the friends discover that the trip’s unwitting financier, Linda’s philandering husband, is also staying at the Waldorf with his twentysomething girlfriend.
The fourth novel from Lesley Crewe, a Cape Breton writer who grew up in Montreal, reads like madcap chick lit with a dash of cozy mystery. (Think a Debbie Macomber rewrite of Snatch.) Brimming with slapstick humour, and charging along with cacophonous momentum, it demands a comfy chair and a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Crewe’s writing has the breathless tenor of a kitchen-table yarn. Phrases like “madder than a wet hen” and “scared shitless” do much of the descriptive duties, but although evocative detail is sparse, a cinematic pace and crackling dialogue keep readers hooked.
Naturally, this whirlwind tale has a cast of caricatures: dummy henchmen, neurotic crime bosses, and eccentric family members. Some are overblown – the goofy group of punk rockers, for instance – but most fit Crewe’s style of zany comedy.
The four lifelong friends use their wits, mothers’ intuition, and the contents of their purses to de-claw the New York Mafia – and, in the process, they rekindle their affection for that other imperfect mob of children, husbands, parents, and in-laws waiting for them back in Montreal.
Perhaps the moral of this big-hearted caper is never leave home without pepper spray, a sense of humour, and a few great friends.