Table of Contents
Death by Chick Lit
“A smart, fun send-up of the chick lit phenomenon—Lynn Harris’s voice will reel you right in.”—Elizabeth Merrick, editor of
This Is Not Chick Lit
and author of
“Lynn Harris’s clever and charming novel eviscerates the sillier corners of the New York media world while also providing a fine example of the genre she gently mocks.”—Neal Pollack, author of
Death by Chick Lit
is a wickedly funny read offering the rare combination of both teeth and heart.”—Lori Gottlieb, author of
Death by Chick Lit
is a glamorous good time, a whodunit with some very sexy ‘whos,’ and a stiletto sideswipe at the sourpuss anti-chick lit movement—it’s three smart/funny/cool novels in one!”—Rachel Pine, author of
The Twins of Tribeca
“Cloning scientists should turn their attention away from sheep and focus on Lynn Harris. After reading her hilarious writing, I’m convinced the world could benefit from a dozen more comic geniuses just like her.”—Andy Borowitz, author of
The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers
“Lynn Harris’s latest novel is a full-on, straight-up joy read filled with murder, mayhem, and some solutions for life’s great mysteries, including our relationships with best friends, worst enemies, and the men who truly are our better halves.”—Wendy Shanker, author of
The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2007 by Lynn Harris.
All rights reserved.
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Berkley trade paperback edition / June 2007
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Death by chick lit / Lynn Harris.—Berkley trade pbk. ed.
eISBN : 978-1-4406-2195-6
1. Women novelists—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 3. Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)—
Fiction. 4. Chick lit. I. Title.
For David and Bess
My profound thanks to Paula Balzer, Kate Seaver, Chris Kalb, Colin Lingle, Betsy Fast, Juliet Eastland, Marjorie Ingall, Wendy Shanker, Carolyn Mackler, Judy Bornstein, Amy Keyishian, Jason Jacobs, Jim Gaylord, Michael Lee, Dixie Feldman, Jim and Florence Harris, Saul and Betty Adelson, Anna Adelson, and, of course, David Adelson, for their invaluable contributions to this book, and to my life.
Where on earth was Mimi McKee?
How could she miss her own book party?
Lola Somerville sipped her Mimi-tini and tried not to think evil thoughts.
Well, she tried.
Mimi had not even been a
writer until now. Before, she’d just been a plucky publicist whose letter to the editor defending the “gay best friend” as a real person, not just a stock character, had scored her a book deal practically overnight. Hence her novel,
Gay Best Friend
, and the accompanying movie option by Cameron Diaz’s production company. Plus this super-schmancy publication party at Cabin 9—with a drink named after the author, no less.
I will not be petulant, Lola thought. I like Mimi. I have my health. I have wonderful friends. I have a loving husband, and I mean that in a true-life-partner way, not in a “Husband:
!” way. I am happy. So, what? I don’t deserve a supercool book party with free Somerville Slings?
Whoops. Lola caught herself. Positive: 0, Petulant: 1.
Okay, she conceded, I’m just going to think these thoughts once, and then they will be out of my system.
Everyone gets better book parties than mine. Everyone gets better book deals than mine. Everyone’s book gets better buzz than mine. Everyone’s book is ranked higher on Amazon than mine, even when everyone else’s reviews all have only one star. Everyone has an “idea for a book”—or one landing in their lap. Can someone maybe throw me a bone here? How about a call from an editor saying she wants to hear more of my voice? An e-mail from a fancy agent saying, “I’ve seen your work and I’ve got the perfect book idea for you! See six-figure contract, attached.”
Just once, Lola whimpered to herself, can’t I write some random article and have Jodie Foster phone me, out of the blue, ready to make it into a film? Or jeez, okay, Minnie Driver. Just
Lola scowled in the dim light, then held her hand up. Okay, she thought. Done. I’ve met my crappy karma quota for the night.
She hoisted her rotini-twisty red hair—which she’d hated as a kid but now realized was her best asset—into a plastic clip, ten to a pack, from Duane Reade. As Lola frequently observed, she’d be a dead ringer for Nicole Kidman if she were two feet taller and had a different face. Hers, nose included, was rounder and flecked with freckles, though in random positions from her forehead to her chin, not the official “cute” constellation of nose and upper cheeks. But her smile was wide and easy, and her shining green eyes reminded her husband, he often said, of the best olives he’d ever eaten, back on some crazy adventure in Crete with a loaded former roommate. “Whenever I look at you, I think of salt and sun,” he liked to say. “Is there any way you could spend less time blinking?”
Lola scanned the room’s dark log walls. Party guests jammed the bar three deep and reclined here and there on vintage metal bunk beds. Tree-tall waitresses, all midriff, passed Hi-C shots and trays of s’mores. Lola squinted at people’s faces, hard-pressed to make them out. What was that Fox News special report on how women’s health declines more rapidly if they haven’t had at least one baby by age twenty-two? Didn’t they say night vision was one of the first things to go?
Ah! A clue! Somewhere in the swirl, Lola spotted Mimi’s newish boyfriend, Quentin, a good egg if there ever was one, though on the breakable side. Alas, Mimi was not at his side. Quentin excused himself from a clot of well-wishers and headed for a door.
Huh. Guess he’s looking for her, too. Lola knew from her experience with Mimi in book club, which was where they’d met, and which Lola had quit when the group had voted nine to one to reread
The Bridges of Madison County
on the anniversary of its publication, that Mimi was always twenty minutes early to everything. So where on earth is she? And speaking of missing people, where is Annabel? She totally swore she was coming to give me moral support. And where, for that matter, is my husband, who will take me away from all this and score me a second goody bag?
Lola found an empty spot on a picnic table bench and crossed one painted wooden clog over the other, a little bummed, on top of everything, that she hadn’t worn her favorite cowboy boots on what was likely to be her last cool evening out before the mid-June boot solstice. She yanked her Loehmann’s Black Dress—LBD, as she and Annabel called them—down over her knees and reviewed the evening so far. Her plan had been simply this: congratulate Mimi sincerely, torment herself briefly, and then go out with her husband and her best friend for a bite to eat, if there indeed remained any restaurant nearby that served anything but “small plates.” Okay, Lola thought, one out of three.
She polished off her Mimi-tini, golden-retrievering her tongue into the glass to make sure she hadn’t missed anything.
Hmm. Who’s that coming toward me? Lola wondered. As far as she could make out, the figure, head tilted toward a cell phone on her shoulder, was not the object of her guilty umbrage, nor of her recent wedding vows. Hell’s bells, Lola thought. Whoever this is, I am disinclined to make small talk about how my book is going, because it’s not.
“Mimi, it’s me! Where the eff are you?!? Call me the second you get this!” Even over the music, Lola recognized the voice speaking into the phone before the low-ponytailed woman fully emerged from the shadows, clipping along in shoes with toes so pointy they must have just been sharpened. It was Mimi’s approximately eleven-year-old book publicist, Holly Something. Holly, in fact, had been Lola’s book publicist for ten minutes before getting promoted. Spotting Lola, Holly said, “Oh hi, Kim!” and punched up another number on her spangled Sidekick.
Change of scenery—
thought Lola. She headed for the restroom, wondering vaguely if the party would merit an appearance by the total It Girl Crystal sisters, the hard-partying, cross-dressing heirs to a vast aspartame fortune. She passed knots of Mimi’s friends, professional publishing party attendees, and, notably, Blanca Palette, who was entitled to feel even surlier than Lola. Blanca’s eyes were perpetually downcast—you could just hear an aunt saying, “You’d be so pretty if you’d look up and
—and her ears stuck out from her wispy brown hair (“Have you considered getting a permanent?”). Blanca wrote Serious Books with female protagonists that consistently received reviews along the lines of “Chick lit with brains!” and then sold fewer copies than their lighter counterparts.