Now that you know why I find Jacqueline Kirby an unexpected gem. I’m going to try an actual critique of my favorite book in the series.
Written in 1989, Naked Once More follows the adventures of Jacqueline Kirby; historical romance novelist, former academic librarian, and snoop in need of a new creative challenge. Writing the sequel to Naked in the Ice hits the spot. The book’s author, Kathleen Darcy, went missing seven years ago and her family moved to have her declared legally dead. Picking up where her critically praised and commercially successful book left off entices Jacqueline. Getting a chance to discover the truth behind Kathleen’s disappearance only add fuel to her desire. To pursue both tasks, Jacqueline moves to the author’s home town of Pine Grove.
The book presents us with two different authors; the literary fiction writer Kathleen Darcy and Jake, who writes genre fiction. The fly by the seat of your pants style of Kathleen (knows as pansters) and the outline making (planners) like Jacqueline. The self-sacrificing Kathleen and the boundary setting Jake. One can’t help but feel that Peters’ is airing some grievances though Jacqueline. No one comes out unscathed: publishers, agents, writers, readers, or the press. Then you realize you cannot solve this mystery without all these elements and her varied complaints were also clues (plus, a confrontation between Jacqueline and a Tom Clancy type fellow author, while unnecessary, it a whole lot of fun).
Peters gets the details of small town life. The way secrets get kept, the petty jealousies, and the good will. She contrasts these realities wit the needs of a writer and the isolation Kathleen must have felt growing up here. In some ways, this is a mystery about the demands of an artistic life, it’s demands, sacrifices, and compromises made and how writers, particularly women writers, get a raw deal due to social expectations of women. She takes what seems like a saw and turns in into the key to solving the “crime,” making the book more of a why done it over a who done it.
Despite these big ideas, this book is a fun read. Jacqueline’s mouth is a barbed as ever, and the plot moves along at just the right pace. All in all, a well but together genre mystery with bigger ideas that they usually have.