Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Review: 'No More Birthdays' by Lissa Pelzer

Author Lissa Pelzer leaves a note at the end of her sturdy debut novel that is about all the information we have about her. ‘Lissa lives in Germany with her husband and son. And that’s about it. This story is an attempt to write a modern day noir-ish piece of pulp in the style of the American classics. The city in the story is fictional but heavily inspired by Dayton, Ohio.’ There is something seductive about an author who speaks to her readers like that – and that is one of the primary reasons this book works so well. She is frank, no nonsense, serious about her skills, and writes like a pro.

Though NO MORE BIRTHDAYS is a stand-alone novel, the tagline suggests we are reading a created character who will be in an on-going series – the Carol Ann Baker Crime Book 1. When authors take the stance that reader s will want more about the heroine created, they must be rather sure the character works well. In the case of Carol Ann Baker Lissa has created a winner.

We don’t even meet Carol Ann Brown (by that name) until later in her story – at first we meet Lilly Lessard – a young prostitute on a chase to find her pimp who has escaped owning her money. But as the synopsis states, ‘Runaway teenager Lilly Lessard has some secrets. For a start, that’s not her real name and she wants to keep her real age on the down-low too. Bumping into ex-hitman Bobby at a small town film festival is no coincidence either. She’s tracked him here. He owes her money and she’s desperate enough to come looking for it. And she’s not the only one who’s followed him here. Detective Davis is after him too. She’s been after him in Miami for years, but never quite managed to get him. Maybe this weekend she’ll get lucky. But the closer Lilly gets to Bobby and his money, the closer Davis gets to them both. One by one, their secrets are coming out. And Lilly’s about to find out, the worst secrets are the ones you keep from yourself.’

Lissa’s book has all the flavor of those 1950s crime films that remain so popular on the late night circuit on television. She knows how to weave a story, pop in interesting new characters as the plot unfolds, but always allow the show stopper heroine shine. This should develop into a very successful series of novels with a heroine like Carol Ann Brown at the helm. It’s ballsy. Grady Harp, November 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.