Alphabet in crime fiction: Isaacs

IBefore there was Janet Evanovich or Desperate Housewives there was Susan Isaacs, an author I discovered quite by chance when I noticed a then-just-published bright yellow Penguin paperback with the intriguing title of Compromising Positions. Published in 1985, almost 10 years before the first Stephanie Plum book, the novel was like a breath of fresh air, unlike anything I had read before. The plot concerns a suburban housewife, Judith, who is bored and stifled by the domestic grind. When a local dentist and "stud" is found murdered, Judith's life takes on a new purpose as she determines to solve the crime – not least when she discovers that several of her women friends (supposedly happily married mothers) have been captured photographically by the dead man – in the compromising positions of the title.

This was a very funny book, and I'd be interested to know if it was the first of the genre of "wisecracking, domestic, comic mystery" as one blurb has it. Maybe it would not seem that original now, but I loved it at the time. I read most of Susan Isaacs' subsequent books, most of which I enjoyed a great deal. Although the protagonist is invariably a strong female, she varies her themes, from crime to romantic to historical, usually with a refreshing, funny touch. One exception to the humour element was Shining Through, a World War two romantic spy story, a good book which was made into a (reputedly) awful film with Michael Douglas. Other books by Susan Isaacs that I've enjoyed were Lily White, a crime thriller about a lawyer amid the privileged Long Island set; After all these Years, about a woman whose husband leaves her after their silver wedding party and is subsequently found murdered; and Magic Hour, murder and romance in The Hamptons.

I lost touch with Susan Isaacs' novels a few years ago until this crime-fiction alphabet series caused me to check out the author's website, where I see that there are three I haven't yet read. Maybe I will, or maybe I would no longer enjoy this lightly amusing, satirical lifestyle type of book. Either way, I think Susan Isaacs is a funny and talented exponent. 

Crime Fiction alphabet series at Petrona.

Mysteries in Paradise, home of the crime fiction alphabet. Visit this link if you would like to participate.

3 thoughts on “Alphabet in crime fiction: Isaacs

  1. Maxine – Thanks for this review. I’ve read a bit of Susan Isaacs, myself, ‘though not this particular one, and you’re so right about her sense of humor :). I think it’s time for me to go and look this one up! You make a good point, too, about tastes changing over time. It’s funny; I feel that way about some authors, but others I devour now just as I did when I first read them.

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