The Book Club Murder
Lawrence Friedman
Quid Pro Books 2012
156 pages

The Book Club Murder by Lawrence Friedman is a short mystery of 156 pages and the third instalment of The Frank May Chronicles.  Kindle at Amazon

May, the intellectual but otherwise ordinary California estate lawyer has a reputation for solving murders.  He is approached by members of his wife’s book club who were present when Gerald, the hostess’ husband was quietly murdered in a back room during their latest meeting.  Luckily, Celia May was absent.  The other women are all suspects.  Each meets with Frank to spin tales, spout theories, turn on others, and justify her own behaviour, most hoping that with his legal background, Frank will discover the truth.

The women are an interesting lot, and not at all what meets the eye.  The convoluted plot thickens as unexpected liaisons, affairs, business arrangements, and other personal secrets are exposed.  It gets better, and you will not anticipate whodunit and the shocker at the end.

The writing itself, however, leaves much to be desired.   Friedman, a Stanford University law professor, is particularly liberal with punctuation.  He exhibits a fondness for lengthy sentences broken by semi colons and numerous commas.  This is bad, distracting, and so apparent that for sport this reviewer began a punctuation count that reached an incredible nine in one sentence.  This one takes the cake at 13:

“I think what happened is this:  she went back to their room, and she and Gerald started arguing over something, and she started bitching and complaining, and he was obnoxious, I suppose he was, and maybe he insulted her, called her horrible names, and maybe he even lost his temper and hit her, and she lost her head, she kills him, and then she tries to cover it up, she starts screaming and carrying on, and then she calls the police.”


Likewise Friedman freely employs bracketing (particularly annoying), dots and dashes, and flipping tenses within the same paragraph.  Oddly enough, the writing seems to improve as the novel progresses.

The Book Club Murder is heavily weighted in dialogue, so it is possible that Lawrence Friedman’s punctuation style is used intentionally to reflect the way real people speak. This reader is not convinced, but is willing to give the benefit of the doubt or happily volunteer to edit the next Chronicle.