Takes One to Know One

Reviewed by Andy Smart

This is the third of Kate Allen's Alison Kaine novels. Picture the scene if you will; a community of lesbian separatists gather to build an adobe house on women's land in the south west followed by a retreat. They have more rules than you could shake a stick at, including 'do smoking or drinking' 'no coffee' 'no s/m' 'no males' and many more in similar vein. Alison and Michelle are invited along for the first weekend (but only because Michelle owns a cement mixer), only without being told exactly what type of event it is. Alison jumps at the chance because a) it sounds fun b) Michelle and Janka's baby is keeping her awake at night and c) because she is rowing a lot with Stacy and feels like getting away. However she does leave Stacy a map showing her how to get to the event if she feels like coming. OK, as you can no doubt imagine, somebody is killed, Alison is having trouble fitting in, and Stacy (the super-femme, hyper-stylish, dominatrix turns up, with beer, coffee and other stimulants). Does she fit in? Surprisingly not - especially as she is accompanied by her best friend Liz.

The situation resolves itself with Stacy and Michelle setting up what they term 'The Fun Camp' just outside the gates of the women's land and Michelle and Alison pretty much being banished to it - not that Alison is really that keen to spend too much time with the rest anyhow. Michelle finds herself becoming infatuated with one of the women, to the possible jeopardy of her relationship with Janka (at home with baby Sammy). Stacy, needless to say is a firm believer that Camping is no excuse for roughing it and has arrived with mini cookers, icebox, and multiple changes of clothing and makeup. It is also a surprise to learn that she is a dedicated, skilled and enthusiastic cook while camping, even though she never cooks at home; I'll leave you to find out why when you read the book.

The relationships within Alison's social sphere have not changed much since Give my Secrets Back, Alison adores Stacy, Stacy adores Alison, Michelle is best friends with Alison, Michelle loathes Stacy but makes an effort for Alison's sake, Michelle loathes Liz but feels no reason to make an effort to hide it, Liz loathes Michelle; but somehow they all get along in a muddled way. The crew on the retreat are fairly strange too, 'Sarah-embraces-all-things' (who it would not be giving too much away to suggest is not as Native American as she seems), Hawk Persimmon and Gaya who are the driving forces behind the project, G-hay!, Salad, Rusha, Claw and the chain-gang. On top of that Alison is hiding from everybody except Seven Yellow Moons that she has a chronic illness which leads her to the edge of exhaustion and collapse at regular intervals.

It Takes one to Know One is every bit as good as the other 'Alison and Stacy' novels. The plot is interesting, the characters are interesting and believable, the ending had me completely fooled, and various loose ends are left hanging. Oh, and Alison and Stacy may have ensured that the residents of Mariposa Women's Land never, ever, use their hot tub again! I'd recommend that you read the other 'Alison and Stacy' novels first, as knowing some history will help, but you will enjoy this book

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