Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland

Posted by Yuma County Library

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D.E. Ireland

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Picking up not long after George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion left off, this homage/sequel finds Eliza Doolittle employed as a speech instructor by her former teacher Henry Higgins's chief rival. Higgins launches a smear campaign in retaliation - but he never expects the man to end up dead, with himself as the chief suspect. He and Eliza have to work together again in order to help the police crack the case.

What I Thought: Nowadays, more people will be familiar with these characters and their story thanks to the Broadway musical My Fair Lady, which maintains the play's basic plot but changes the ending. So at the expense of giving key plot points away, allow me to say: although she wonders at one point whether she does actually love her fiance Freddy, this "sequel" does NOT find Eliza and Henry in a relationship at the end of the novel, and it's all the better for that. (Higgins is hardly a "catch" in any sense of the word, nor should Eliza be "his" simply by the merits of his having provided her an education. Her returning at the end of My Fair Lady makes no sense. But I digress.)

This book is at its best when not attempting to add new elements to the world in which it's set. Original characters are mostly unmemorable, an attempt to diversify the cast by including a nonbinary character ends up reading more like shock value - including some clunky narrative wording that may come across as offensive - and an attempt to both humanize insufferable prig Henry Higgins while depriving him of an alibi for the moment of the crime seems so out of character, and strikes so completely from left field, I promptly pretended to myself it hadn't happened and kept reading. Even the plot itself is forgettable save that, hey! You're reading "Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins solve a mystery!" If that doesn't put a grin on your face, this is not the book for you.

The Pygmalion characters themselves, however, consistently made me smile. Although drawn in strokes bold enough to verge on parody, everyone definitely reads as "themselves" - unfortunate alibi aside, Higgins is every bit as obnoxious (yet entertaining) in this novel as he is in the book and musical, Eliza has every bit as much spunk and determination, and watching them butt heads remains a delight. I also laughed every time the authors inserted the name of a My Fair Lady song, or a bit of its dialogue, into the story; they over-reach themselves when one character compares Higgins to Pygmalion to his face, but an earlier moment wherein he exclaims in fury over not caring about "the rain in Spain" had me howling. The rest of the actual writing is serviceable but unexceptionable...yet I'm a sucker for references like that.

The book's cover insinuates this might be the first title in a series about Eliza and Henry; I'll probably pick up the next one if only because that rain in Spain joke was right up my alley. Basically, if you really like My Fair Lady, you will be entertained by this book. Otherwise it might be a harder sell - but it clearly loves these characters and their dynamic so much that newcomers may be inspired to track down the original.

Readalikes: Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris, for more "famous literary characters solve mysteries"; the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander, for "spunky, intelligent fictional women fight crime."

Or look this book up on NoveList!