Nursery Crimes (A Mommy-Track Mystery)

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9780425180006: Nursery Crimes (A Mommy-Track Mystery)

Nursery Crimes (Mommy-track)

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Nursery Crimes, progeny of first-time author Ayelet Waldman, bills itself as a mommy track mystery, the first in a series featuring Juliet Applebaum, a 5-foot-tall dynamo who gave up a career as a public defender to stay home with her daughter Ruby. Pregnant with her second child, Juliet is at loose ends and dissatisfied:

Anyone who tells you that having a child doesn't completely and irrevocable ruin your life is lying. As soon as that damp little bundle of poop and neediness lands in your lap, it's all over. Everything changes. Your relationship is destroyed. Your looks are shot. Your productivity is devastated. And you get stupid. Dense. Thick. Pregnancy and lactation make you dumb. That's a proven scientific fact.
When Ruby, a whiner and grabber par excellence, doesn't make the cut for Heart's Song, L.A.'s most prestigious preschool, Juliet and her husband Peter shrug it off with good grace. But when the school's founder, Abigail Hathaway, is killed in what the police think is a hit-and-run accident, Juliet's convinced something nefarious is afoot. Did Bruce LeCrone, a movie studio powerhouse with a flashpoint temper, kill Abigail after his son was denied admission? What about Daniel Mooney, Abigail's fourth husband--an egocentric new ager who's been communing with a voluptuous redhead? As Juliet discovers that everyone has secrets to keep, she realizes being a stay-at-home-mom is rather more risky than she'd thought.

Waldman's novel is breezy and engaging. Both Juliet's frustration ("Now, suddenly, just because I had doffed my lawyer's wig and donned a housewife's kerchief, people like Detective Carswell thought they could pat me on the head and send me on my way") and her witty asides on the idiosyncrasies of life in southern California (think Kinsey Millhone with a diaper bag) lend ballast to an admittedly slim plot. Effortlessly adept at sketching both character and place, Waldman falters slightly when it comes to action. Too often, she relies on awkward summaries to provide readers with crucial information, and Juliet's deductions occasionally seem abrupt and unsubstantiated. But these narrative hiccups don't detract from a thoroughly pleasant read. One minor cavil: Waldman's rendition of 2-year-old Ruby's speech is irritatingly coy (dinner at an Italian restaurant becomes "fed-up-cino alfwedo"). Since Juliet herself so staunchly opposes the saccharine school of motherhood, must her child descend to its cloying depths? --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

Ayelet Waldman currently lives with her writer-husband Michael Chabon and four children.

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