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Monday 9 March 2020

‘Pretty Guilty Women’ by Gina LaManna

Published by Sphere,
5 March 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-7668-9 (PB)

Three thirty-something former college room-mates meet for the first time in years at a luxury spa resort where a fourth former roomie's wedding is about to take place. Their lives have followed completely different paths, and each one of them harbours a secret sadness. Also, at the resort are an older woman and a young one with a baby; they too have secret sadness’s of their own. A lot of alcohol is consumed, old grudges are aired, confidences are shared.

And then there's a murder. And for some reason known only to them, four of the women confess to the killing. The fifth is the young woman with the baby, and she has disappeared.

What a tangle the police have to unravel! Throw into the mix the loud demands of a bossy wedding planner and the emotional baggage all the women carried with them, and the result is a sometimes tear-jerking, often witty, always entertaining mystery wrapped around the kind of women-triumphing-over-life's-slings-and-arrows novel made popular by the likes of Marian Keyes and Jodie Picoult.

All the characters, including the men on the fringes of this female-dominated world, are so real that I half-expected to bump into them in the street. There's successful, sophisticated Kate, publicly dumped by her long-term partner in the lobby of the resort; harassed Ginger, juggling two young children with a third, teenage one who refuses to communicate with her; disillusioned Emily, who has so little self-worth that she picks up a man on the plane; much-married Lulu, who has found true love late in life and is now afraid she is losing it; and fragile Sydney, whose baby Lydia is her whole world.

The spa resort is almost obscenely luxurious, conspicuous consumption in solid form: every whim catered for, every mess cleared up in seconds, every self-indulgence available at the click of a finger, all at an exorbitant price, of course. And it comes across in almost tactile detail.

The women's individual stories, and with them the motivation for both the murder and the confessions, unfold through the eyes of each of them in turn, interleaved with transcripts of the investigating detective's interviews with each of them and several other people at the resort. It all weaves together into a pattern as complex as a spider's web, and well laced with the kind of human emotion that invariably surfaces at a wedding. It isn't great literature; instead, it's a jolly good read that will make you laugh and cry.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Gina LaManna originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, has also called Italy and Los Angeles home. At the moment she lives nine blocks from the beach and sometimes runs marathons. After studying numbers and equations in college, she realized multiple choice tests were just not for her and began writing books instead. She loves cappuccino foam and whipped cream and would subsist solely on sprinkles if possible. She has one imaginary dog.  Gina also writes the Mini Pie the Spy! books, under pen name, Libby LaManna, a childrens series featuring an over-enthusiastic little detective, similar in style to Junie B. Jones.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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