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Monday 10 April 2017

Review: Motherhood for Stella Duffy's sleuth

Posted in: Books
By Verity George - 14th October 2007

Published by Serpents Tail, RRP $27.99
I'd never read a Saz Martin Mystery before Mouths of Babes. Perhaps this one where she has given up on being a private investigator in order to be a full time mother was not the best introduction to the oeuvre.

This is the "get to know your leading lady while her defenses are down" book. It took a bit for me to get into the flow of it, to get under the skin of the writing. It's a youthful style - by that I mean overpopulated with hyphen joined words like, get-me-to-the-cemetery-on-time. Full of poetic repetition, word play and one word sentences, it's jumpy yet smooth. But once I got the hang of it I happily devoured the 244 pages. It's good to read gay material you can identify with, especially when it attempts to dissect the intensity of being a querulous teenager; sex, lies, drugs and alcohol, cruel experimentation and the cover-up that comes back to bite you on the bum.

Saz is doing the parent thing with partner Molly, who has gone back to work and left Mummy 2 in charge of baby Matilda. Then the past comes knocking at her door, she gets her sexy ex Carrie to mind the baby whilst she nips out for a spot of sleuthing. She also ties the ex into being complicit with the lies she tells her lover. Here begins the wicked web of deceit that will only end in tears. Molly is very philosophical about Saz withholding information, omissions abound, yet how much more complicated life would be with everything laid on the table.

The sweetness of motherhood is juxtaposed with the nastiness of teen-adult dramas. I didn't see the tragic ending coming and it made me wonder if the author was slaying some relationship demons, dealing to the complexities of dyke exes? Lesbian exes tend to be best friends, an aberration het women don't tolerate unless children are involved. So, a climactic ending to a story about not belonging, and the dire long term consequences of acting out of fear when you're not a part of the group.

Smattered with death and grief, it is not a cheery read. Oh and it's riddled with the sort of sense spelling mistakes that spell check doesn't pick up on but that still piss you off when you're a picky sub-editor-type like me. Any hot girl on girl action I hear you ask. Just a jolly good descriptive page on the familiarity of lovemaking in a long term relationship.

Author Stella Duffy was born in London and raised in Aotearoa. She has four other Saz Martin novels to choose from so I think I'll go back and read some early Saz, catch up on the single years!

Verity George - 14th October 2007

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