Author: Kathleen Hale
Published: January 7th 2014
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.
Like every satire ever written, No One Else Can Have You is destined to polarize readers. I doubt there will be people with lukewarm feelings for this book. Either this type of dark humor is something you enjoy or not, but it should be pretty clear after only a couple of pages.
Through Friendship, Wisconsin and its colorful inhabitants, Hale cleverly points out all the shortcomings of a small community. Her criticism is as sharp as it is funny, and she spares no one in the process: not the protagonist, not the grieving parents, not the war hero, and certainly not the victim herself. To Hale, everything is fair game, and that’s precisely what makes her prose acceptable and entertaining. Had she been picky with her disparagement, the value would have been lost, but her tone remains unchanged whichever way you look.
Like everything else, the murder mystery is designed to both entertain and ridicule the small town mentality. Everyone involved in the investigation is basically a blithering idiot and the only two people with a modicum of sense are Kippy and Davey, Ruth’s older brother, just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Davey has secrets he’s doing his best to hide and the entire town believes that he suffers from PTSD, so the fact that he’s the sanest one around is plenty ridiculous all on its own.
Despite the quirkiness that is, on occasion, exaggerated and annoying, Hale strikes just the right note with her secondary characters. The people of Friendship, few exceptions aside, are funny and instantly lovable, in that entirely unrealistic, unbelievable way. Kippy’s dad in particular has no trouble finding his way into the readers’ hearts, with his silly nicknames and his unrelenting support.
While I strongly recommend reading a sample first, just to see if this is something you might enjoy, I think everyone should at least give this one a chance. It’s a novelty, a breath of fresh air in an overly saturated market, and as such, it’s worthy of attention.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.