When a mystery writer cries bloody murder, everyone blames her overactive imagination . . .
Thriller scribe Sophie Katz is as hard-boiled as a woman who drinks Grande Caramel Brownie Frappuccinos can be — maybe it’s from a lifetime of fielding dumb comments about her half-black, half-Jewish ethnicity. ("My sister married a Polynesian! I just love your culture!") So Sophie knows it’s not paranoia, or post-divorce, living-alone-again jitters, when she becomes convinced that a crazed reader is sneaking into her apartment to reenact scenes from her books. The police, however, can’t tell a good plot from an unmarked grave.
When a filmmaker friend is brutally murdered in the manner of a death scene in one of his movies, Sophie becomes convinced that a copycat killer is on the loose — and that she’s the next target. If she doesn’t solve the mystery, her own bestseller will spell out her doom. Cursing her imagination (why, oh, why did she have to pick the axe?), Sophie engages in some real-life gumshoe tactics. The man who swoops in to save her in dark alleys at night is mysterious new love interest Anatoly Darinsky. Of course, if this were fiction, Anatoly would be her prime suspect . . .
HelenKay: If the true test of how successful a writer is at her craft is her ability to take a plot we’ve heard a thousand times before and make it feel fresh and alive, Sex, Murder and A Double Latte and Davis pass with high marks. Thanks to Davis’ engaging voice, expert pacing and snappy dialog, this is a book you will pick up and not put down until you hit the last page.
In Sex, Murder and A Double Latte, Sophie Katz is a successful writer living in San Francisco when a series of murders, both famous and not so famous, begin to mirror stories she’s heard before. When the intensity cranks up a notch and someone starts using Sophie’s books to plot crimes, and her apartment as the staging ground, Sophie is on the case. She actually has to be on the case because no else is. The police investigators don’t believe her. The sexy stranger with the mysterious past, Anatoly, starts popping up wherever Sophie goes but can’t be trusted to help. And, everyone – including her friend’s new wacky boyfriend – is a suspect.
The book is written in the first person. Davis carries this off without effort. The reader feels an immediate attachment to Sophie. You like her and want to see what happens to her. Sophie is the woman you know, possibly the woman you are. She is flawed and funny. She is loyal to her friends and unsure of her romantic options. She knows her body isn’t perfect, that her hair isn’t perfect, but her life isn’t about those imperfections. It’s about going about her daily life and every now and then stopping by for the perfect Grande Caramel Brownie Frappuccino. Aren’t we all looking for that perfect cup of pseudo-coffee?
This book is a chick lit and doesn’t pretend to be a romance. Ignore the "Sex" in the title. Don’t expect any. What Davis delivers instead is sexual tension and a hot male counter to Sophie in Anatoly. Sure, there is a possibility he’s a killer but you will not care. Even though Davis doesn’t spend a huge portion of the book describing Anatoly, his image will form in your mind. Like all of the characters in Sex, Murder and A Double Latte, except Sophie, he feels a bit exaggerated but somehow Davis makes him work. She makes you believe. She invests you in the characters until you can’t help but follow them anywhere.
One of the books major strengths, in addition to Davis’ remarkably enjoyable voice, is the pacing. From beginning to end the pacing does not let up. The reader is dragged along, waiting to turn each page to see what happens next in Sophie’s adventures. In between, the reader is treated to solid characters, a vibrant and distinct voice, and dialog that sings. And, the end won’t disappoint either. Davis doesn’t go for the neat package but, instead, goes for believable. For the ending that will have a smile on your face while you nod your head in agreement.
Sex, Murder and A Double Latte exceeds all expectations. It is a chick lit with a little something for everyone. It’s fun and flirty. Funny and smart. Suspenseful and a bit mysterious. At a time when a lot of books settle for being good, and some not-so-good, Sex, Murder and A Double Latte goes the extra step and manages to be great.
Wendy: In Kyra Davis’ Sex, Murder and A Double Latte, Sophie Katz is a best-selling novelist who lives with her cat, Mr. Katz, in the Russian Hill district of San Francisco. She has the world by the tail until movie producer Michael Tolsky—who was interested in optioning Sophie’s novel Sex, Drugs and Murder for film—commits suicide. In short order Sophie see a connection between Tolsky’s suicide and a film he produced in which a murder was made to look like suicide; her life begins to eerily mimic her own novels; she meets Anatoly Darinsky, a Russian she has an immediate dislike and craving for; and then people start to die.
Writers are familiar protagonists, but unlike other works in which characters find their lives imitating their art, Davis’ plot never feels myopic or like an exercise in navel gazing. She accomplishes this by creating characters that are sharp, clear, and so vivid as to not leave room for the author to intrude. Sophie, Anatoly and Sophie’s gang (best girlfriends Dena and Mary Ann along with hairdresser Marcus) are shown to their best advantage through dialog that is quick, clever, and constructed to reveal character. As in this exchange between Sophie and her mother:
“Your bladder infection is not fatal, Mama.”
“So you’re a medical doctor now? My doctor, the one with the medical degree, he says it can be fatal.”
“Dr. Silverman diagnosed you and then told you you might die?”
“He didn’t say so exactly, but I know how to read between the lines. I can sense these things.”
If there is a drawback to Davis’ characters it could be that there are too many well drawn characters populating this work with too little to do. That however, is a minor complaint and there is the hope that a few of the secondary characters introduced in Sex, Murder and A Double Latte will find more significant roles in the two remaining Sophie Katz novels in this series.
The story’s pacing sprints along as Davis paints her setting of San Francisco with deft and fine brush strokes that miss nothing. From the endless fight for parking, to the multicultural, multiethnic fabric of the city, to the thigh burning “gravitational impossibility” of the walk to Coit Tower, Davis captures and shares The City by The Bay at it’s best and worst. However, the true gem of this work is Davis’ voice. It’s fresh, engaging, and witty. It is, in fact, pitch perfect for this chick-lit/mystery hybrid; balancing murder with levity, lattes with vulnerability, and sexual tension with suspicion: The down side of writing sex scene is that my mother reads my books.
Sex, Murder and A Double Latte succeeds on solid writing, believable characters, an engaging voice, and a story, that though familiar, is buoyant and well executed. Davis cleverly plays her murder mystery cards close to her chest, never tipping her hand to the novel’s conclusion until the events unfold. Sex, Murder and A Double Latte, is much like it’s protagonist’s favorite Caramel Brownie Frappuccino: light, yet satisfying, and with the distinctive urge to indulge in more, more, more.
Wendy’s response to HelenKay: Sex, Murder and A Double Latte succeeds in that Davis’ storytelling and writing doesn’t fail. The work’s strengths (crisp dialog, clear voice, vivid characters) are what every book should accomplish. What sort of statement does this make about the field of romance or romantic chick-lit that we love it not because it succeeds or breaks new ground, but because this work didn’t fail?
HelenKay’s response to Wendy: Really, is there any new ground left to break? There is a theory out there that only so many romance, chick lit and women’s fiction plots exist. The key isn’t in coming up with a plot no one has ever thought of, since the constructs and end goals of these genres are pretty set. Rather, the key, what makes a book stand out among the other releases and what makes an author an auto-buy, is the execution. Here, the execution is near perfection. From her dialog to her voice, Davis shines. It will be interesting to read her next book and see if she can carry this level through to a work that doesn’t have a heroine so much like herself in looks, career and geographic location.
Wendy’s Final Thoughts: Sex, Murder and A Double Latte is paced to turn pages with sharply drawn characters that linger with the reader beyond the end of the story. Kyra Davis can write; more like her, please. I absolutely loved this book and consider it the best read since Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome To Temptation; highest of recommendations.
HelenKay’s Final Thoughts: Davis’ debut is well written and witty. Lovers of chick lit and romance should give this a try. You won’t be disappointed and won’t have to worry about being bored. Highly recommended.