[Read] ➪ Blanche on the Lam By Barbara Neely – Peakpopa.info
"Don't worry, darling, she'll cooperate. I promise you." Why not just insert "BBWWWwaaaaa Hhhaaa Hahaha" here, with some hands rubbing together?
I like Blanche. She is resourceful and observant. I do not need the nitty gritty details of her every thought to get that. She is worried about the kids. I GOT IT. Stop bringing it up and MOVE ON. The baby steps she takes to describe her characters is maddening. Like this:
"Blanche studied him. She noticed the folds in the corner of his eyes, the thickness of his fingers. Of course, she thought. Now she remembered who he'd reminded her of earlier. It was Baby Joe, Miz Harriet's son. But Baby Joe had serious mental problems from Down's syndrome. Could you have Down's syndrome but show it only a little bit?"
I had to stop reading. Too many books, too little time, and this one was going to be no end of irritation.
Alsoit's Down Syndrome, not Down's syndrome.
This was light hearted, funny and surprisingly intersectional/feminist. I loved the narrator as well. They were perfect for this story. Blanche White Lends A Refreshing AfricanAmerican, Female Twist To The Mystery Tradition, As She Turns From Domestic Worker To Insightfulif Reluctantsleuth A Middleaged Housekeeper With A Strong Sense Of Humor, Blanche Becomes An Unlikely Yet Ingenious Sleuth When Murder Disrupts The Wealthy Household Of Her Employers
I received a copy of Blanche on the Lam: A Blanche White Mystery through Netgalley, offered by Brash Books, in exchange for an honest review.
Blanche on the Lam, Barbary Neely, First Ed., St. Martin's Press, New York, New York, 1992
Barbara Neely, Social Activist, and Author, born 1941, Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Still hoping to find an employer willing to pay for a full service domestic instead of the bunch of socalled genteel Southern white women for whom she currently did day work. Most of them seemed to think she ought to be delighted to swab their toilets and trash cans for a pittance."
Blanche White, a savvy and independent black woman finds herself in Farleigh, North Carolina, living with her mother and the two children she had promised her sister, Valerie, dying of breast cancer, she would raise and see to their well being. It's not an easy life.
This is not the life Blanche had planned for herself. She never intended on marrying. Children weren't in the picture. A practical woman, she knew her services as a full time domestic were valuable. Up north, in New York, she had earned a good living. But that was before her sister died and she made a promise she was committed to keep.
About Farleigh, North Carolina. I didn't find it on the North Carolina map. Perhaps Ms. Neely changed the location to protect the guilty. However, other North Carolina locations are bantered about without concern. For Neely's purposes, the name suffices, establishing Blanche the domestic, a resident of the South, whose importance is of little note to the white citizens of the community, authoritarian, social or otherwise.
Farleigh was still a country town, for all its pretensions. The folks who lived here and had money, even the really wealthy ones, thought they were still living slavery days, when a black woman was greateful for the chance to work indoors. Even at the going rate in Farleigh she'd found no black people in town who could afford hernot that working for black people ensured good treatment, sad to say.
Things really turn sour for Blanche when she's arrested on warrants for bad checks. Checks she wrote for groceries to support her niece and nephew, counting on her employers making good on her payday. However her employers decided to take a powder, uhm, vacation, to Topsail Beach, or some other likely vacation spot.
Blanche ends up before a Judge who got up on the wrong side of the bed, mistakenly reads her record, and becomes indignant to find her before the Court a fourth time. Thirty days in jail, plus restitution. It crosses one's mind how anyone makes restitution while incarcerated.
Blanche panics. Away from her children, yes, she's come to look on them as her own, for thirty days? The County's liable to come calling and her children will be in the State Foster Care system. At the first opportunity when a brouhaha breaks out in the courtroom, Blanche goes on the lam.
That's when things get interesting. Blanche was scheduled to take a placement through an employment service. What better way to go into hiding working for wealthy white folks. And Blanche only thought she was in trouble.
One Cranberry Way. A week long job. Time to figure out how to handle this check problem. Get a lawyer. That's what she should have done.
The occupants of One Cranberry Way are the Carter family. Aunt Emmaline is the family matriarch. Who would have thought it? She parlayed a $50,000.00 inheritance from her late husband into a fortune in the stock market. Do we need a reminder that money is the root of many evils?
Niece Grace's parents are dead. She's a likely heir upon Emmaline's death. She is married to Everett, a villain from the point of being introduced into the cast of characters. Grace is his second wife. His first was murdered. Having a cast iron alibi, Everett, reaps the benefit of wife One's legacy. But that money is gone.
The other likely heir is Mumsfield, cousin to Grace. Mumsfield is the most sympathetic character in the novel. With a diagnosis of Mosaic Mongolism, Mumsfield functions quiet highly. Derided constantly by Everett, Mumsfield is drawn to Blanche who treats him kindly.
Blanche intuitively recognizes that Everett and Grace mean to gain Aunt Emmaline's estate. If appointed Mumsfield's guardians, Emmaline's fortune is at their disposal.
Blanche and Mumsfield share a kind of invisibility in the Carter household. A black domestic and an adolescent deemed incapable of understanding the manipulations of Aunt Emmaline going on underneath their noses are things that Everett and Grace are confident will not be unraveled before the money is safely in their hands.
However, events take a turn toward violence. Everett and the Sheriff apparently are at odds of serious import to one another. Blanche overhears a sharp interchange between the two. The following morning, the radio news carries the story that the Sheriff committed suicide the previous night, driving his car over O'man's bluff.
Old Nate, the long time Carter gardener, drops by the kitchen to talk to Blanche over a cup of coffee.
"Hear about the Sheriff?" He asked her without a 'Hello' or 'How are you?' He didn't even wait for Blanche to answer. 'Shame, ain't it?' he added. But the huge grin that turned his face intho that of a much younger, more carefree man didn't match his words. It was probably events like the sheriff's death that got her slave ancestors a reputation for being happy, childlike, and able to grin in the face of the worst disaster. She could just see some old slaver trying to find a reason why the slaves did a jig when the overseer died.
But Blanche knows there are things better ignored.
It would be better to forget about the sheriff's visits, his conversations with Everett, and the limousine rolling silently down the drive that shouldn't be a problem. She had plenty of experience not seeing what went on in her customer's homes, like black eyes, specks of white powder left on silver backed mirrors, cufflinks with the wrong initials under the bed, and prescriptions for herpes. She was particularly good at not seeing anything that might be dangerous or illegal. But as good as she was at being blind, there were certain things she couldn't overlook.
However, the sheriff is only the first to go. The body count increases. Will Blanche herself leave her job safely? And what about Mumsfield? Who's to take care of him. Or will she "be murdered over some white people's shit that didn't have a damned thing to do with him?" It would be easier to skip town and head to Boston, lose herself back up North. Send for the kids when it was safe. But things just happen to fast.
Neely knows how to spin a yarn. This is not your conventional mystery. Rather, Neely relies on building characterization of the main players in this tale of a family divided by its greed for the family fortune. The dialog is sharp. Blanche is a refreshingly savvy investigator, though a reluctant one. Interwoven into a well plotted story is a starkly honest portrayal of black anger in the face of a heritage of white oppression.
It's no spoiler that Blanche survives. This is the beginning of a series. Neely's debut drew the attention it deserved. The Agatha Award for Best First Novel, 1992. The Andrew Award for Best First Novel, 1993. And the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, 1993.
The novel's ending may leave some readers conflicted. Be warned. I won't reveal anything more than to quote the old saw, "Two wrongs don't make a right." I leave it to the reader to determine how the conclusion of this novel strikes them.Blanche on the Lam: A Blanche White Mystery
To state there is no racial divide in our country would be specious at best. Neely clearly establishes the suspicion with which the races warily eye one another. There's an infinite degree of sadness that this divide seemingly has no end.
Kudos to Brash Books for reprinting Blanche on the Lam: A Blanche White Mystery. It's good to see Blanche White back in print.
One last thought:
Based on "Blanche on the Lam," I'd say Neely's novels aren't as complex, and are definitely more domestic. But they're not "cozy", and they have a strong black, feminist, realist perspective. Blanche deals with the same racial, social, economic issues, but in a different environment than Mosley's hardboiled LA.
It was a quick, enjoyable read, and I really appreciated Blanche's perspective, her commentary on her employers, her information sources, and the structure of the world she lived in. I'll likely check out another Blanche novel in the future. I first read Blanche on the Lam in the 1990s, when I devoured all four of the books in the series. Blanche White was unlike any other amateur sleuth anywhere: resilient, generous, comfortable in her own skin, savvy, determined — well, sometimes downright too stubborn for her own good — but absolutely a gem.
Imagine my dismay when, after 2000’s Blanche Passes Go, author Barbara Neely went silent. No more Blanche! No more candid observations about race, gender, body image, or class! No more incredibly original mysteries! Desperate, I even emailed some university where Neely was teaching a course in the hopes that so many of us were begging that she’d reconsider.
So imagine my delight when I saw that Blanche on the Lam was being rereleased in the Kindle format! An entire new generation can discover the opinionated, clever zaftig domestic worker for themselves!
In the debut novel, Blanche takes refuge in Hokeysville, N.C., as a maid in a home right out of Southern Gothic Monthly: the privileged but nervy Miz Grace, Grace’s shifty husband Everett, the feebleminded cousin Mumsfield, and Aunt Emmeline, the reclusive, rich crone. Like a modernday Amanda Wingfield, Miz Grace tries to pretend that everything’s just peachy on the plantation, but Blanche doesn’t take long to figure out that something murderous is afoot.
Readers will love the humor, the clever plotting, and, most of all, the irrepressible Blanche herself. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the series makes it onto the ebook format soon.
And, Ms. Neely? It’s still not too late to continue the series. Just sayin’. I was worried for about the first half of reading this one because I really want to love this series and it wasn't happening. I felt lost in what time period this was actually taking place in for a while. The things that were happening, the atmosphere and sense of place made me think at first that this was happening in the late 50's or 60's but it is really taking place in the late 80's early 90's (I think). I still don't actually know. If you know the actual decade please let me know! The last of the book is where I really got invested in how the story was going to unfold. All of my issues could be do to this story being the first in a series. I definitely enjoyed the last third or soit just took me a while to get in the groove of what was going on. I will continue on with the series and hopefully I'll have a better sense of when these adventures are taking place.
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•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•
Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase I'm giving this book 4 stars because I really like Blanche. However, the story is really slow. The pace didn't pick up until the last 50 pages.
My video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8kmc... Blanche White is not exactly a fairy tale heroine like her near namesake, Snow White. She is a strongminded, kindhearted woman, who is also a housekeeper in the "postracial" South. Blanche likes her job and is good at it. One of the many joys of this detective book are the mouth watering descriptions of Blanche's superb Southern cooking. My diet was sorely tempted by these sections!
While on the run for a minor check cashing incident, Blanche ends up at a creepy Southern mansion. She is surrounded by a satisfyingly dysfunctional cast of characters: a frail blonde second wife, a drunken matriarch, a bullying womaniser, a racist Sheriff, and an elderly gardener who knows more than he lets on. It's not long before the bodies are piling up, and Blanche is in fear of her life.
This is skilful writing that seamlessly combines a pacy plot with sharp observations on racism, sexism, and poverty. I laughed out loud in recognition of some of Blanche's strategies for dealing with these issues. The whodunnit aspect is a little superficial hence only 4 stars. But I've bought all the remaining Blanche books, so I'm now a fully paid up Blanche White fan. This is perfect light reading.