Calendar Girl

Reviewed by andy smart

Stella Duffy's Calendar Girl is a novel of two narratives, each the story of a different woman. In the first, stand up comic Maggie relates the story of her relationship with 'the woman with the Kelly McGillis body', in the second Sarah (aka 'Saz') Martin, South London PI searches for the mysterious woman known as 'September' who has disappeared. Eventually the two narratives interlock, and lead on to the conclusion, in which the relationship between the characters is revealed, and also to whom Maggie is relating her story. The ending itself, in the sense of what has happened and 'who did it' is not really the point of the novel, and it isn't too hard to work out for yourself I think. What is important is the journey through which they both go to arrive there.

Saz is destined to be one of the greats of lesbian detective fiction, she has all of the required elements of brains, quickwittedness and the ability to do Chanderesque on-liners. For those not in the UK who have no idea what 'enterprise allowance scheme' means a couple of the jokes might be missed, but I am happy to rectify this. The Enterprise Allowance scheme is to provide government start-up capital for small businesses with a good business plan; Saz is not perhaps doing as well as she might have predicted at the start of the novel but by the end has worked in New York undercover and managed to get her answerphone fixed. There isn't a lot of romantic interest for her, and she falls into the 'happy, celibate and poor' category. Maggie is deeply, madly in love with 'the woman with the Kelly McGillis body' and this drives her whole life forward, in fact it is really the main aspect of her life about which we learn. She makes her living standing up and telling jokes, but her life is serious and filled with darker emotions all together. You find yourself wanting everything to turn out right for her, but know that it will all end tragically whatever you wish.

There is a whole cast of supporting characters, ex-lovers, relatives of ex-lovers, etc who provide support, humour, etc to Maggie and Saz. Duffy creates very believable people for this book and they move the plot along well. It's a book about what people do and why they do it, more than solving the crime. I enjoyed it hugely and look forward to reading and reviewing Duffy's other Saz Martin novels.

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