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Shoot Me

by Lesley Crewe

Some books have great openings. Shoot Me, the second novel by Cape Breton-based freelance magazine writer Lesley Crewe, opens with: “Hildy took a sip of her tea. It was cold. How bloody irritating.” Not an auspicious beginning, to say the least.

Unfortunately, things really don’t improve from there. Crewe’s first novel, Relative Happiness, was readable chick-lit with mostly believable characters and a decent plot. Attempt number two hasn’t succeeded nearly as well – Shoot Me reads like a genre-writing class project gone wrong.

The novel starts out as standard chick-lit fare: fortysomething Elsie Brooks is a newly separated social worker presiding over a houseful of family members, including her two adult daughters, a freeloading wannabe writer (and 40-year-old virgin) sister, and, incredibly, her somewhat-ex-husband. Elsie takes up with a studly cop, and much drinking and sex ensue. Then all hell breaks loose when her 91-year-old Aunt Hildy writes to tell her that she’s coming home to die in the already full house, and starts spouting off about treasure hidden therein.

Hildy, though born in Halifax, speaks like a character from an Agatha Christie novel. The other characters are more caricatures than anything, from Elsie’s rich-bitch older sister to her punked-out, pink-haired daughter who really just wants to catch the eye of that cute guy in her university chemistry class, and does so once she returns her hair to a “normal” colour and stops being so intimidating.

Inane dialogue, cartoonish characters, and a meandering plot become even more unbearable when the book inexplicably stumbles into murder-mystery territory. Dotty old Aunt Hildy is shot in her bed one night, and the whole family comes under suspicion and turns on each other, with Elsie struggling to keep it all together.

Predictably, a happy ending is had by all (except, of course, dear Hildy): the treasure is discovered and everyone falls in love and has lots of sex and never has to worry about money. Shoot Me? More like shelve me.