Fresh Meat: A Parfait Murder by Wendy Lyn Watson

A Parfait Murder by Wendy Lyn Watson
A Parfait Murder by Wendy Lyn Watson
Good prose is hard to find.

I’m not talking fancy prose, all flowery and saccharine, or self-important prose, so chock-full of esoteric terms you feel the need to keep a big, fat Oxford American Dictionary close at hand.

No, I’m talking prose that’s smart and funny and graceful and vibrant and just plain flows. Prose that doesn’t detract from the story by calling too much attention to itself, but still simultaneously makes you sit up and take notice. That’s so good that you’re constantly reading it aloud to the person you’re with—even if that someone happens to be reading something else that they’re rather enjoying, thank you very much (sorry, honey!). That makes you happy just to be reading it, and that makes you want to revel in it—to savor it.

Most people expect to find that kind of prose in Important Works of Fiction.  Classics. Books that win Fancy Literary Prizes, and about which English majors write their theses and dissertations and whatnot.

They don’t, however, expect to find that kind of prose in genre fiction. And they certainly don’t expect to find it in a cozy series based on the exploits of Tallulah Jones, proprietress of an ice cream parlor in Dalliance, Texas, called Remember the A-la-mode.

And yet. Behold, the awesomeness that is Wendy Lyn Watson’s latest, A Parfait Murder:

The Ferris wheel climbed its halting circuit until our car hung high in the sky, just short of the summit. Distance obscured the grime and general disrepair of the midway, so the carnival rides looked like glittering toys beneath us.

Lifted far above the blanket of asphalt that held the sun’s heat through the night, I felt a breeze against my face for the first time in weeks. Cool, it was, with the faint electric scent of ozone.

“Feels like a storm,” Finn said.

On the horizon, a band of darker night sky hinted at gathering clouds.

And, lest you think her skill is limited to writing places and atmosphere:

I raced through the parking lot, but skidded to a stop when I saw Bree leaning against the side of the van. The sepia-tinted light from an overhead streetlamp turned her hair a mellow copper, and when she raised her head at my approach, the light deepened the shadows around her eyes.

Wendy Lyn Watson? She writes damn good prose. Her descriptions are vibrant, but not in the least bit florid. Her dialogue sparkles. And the images she paints are so vivid, they practically spring to mind fully formed. If you’re looking for something new to read this summer—something light and fun, yet still marvelously well-written—get thee to a bookstore and pick up A Parfait Murder.

(Soon, you can check out my full, rave review over at The Season, but what are you waiting for, a dissertation?)

Katrina Niidas Holm loves mysteries. She lives in Maine with her husband, fabulously talented pulp writer Chris F. Holm, and a noisy, noisy cat. She writes reviews for The Season E-Zine and The Maine Suspect, and you can find her on Twitter.


  1. Chris

    I hear you. I’m a prose junkie, and it ain’t always easy to find. Which is what makes folks like Charlie Huston and Duane Swierczynski so fun to read; they’ve got style chops as well as story chops.

  2. Chris

    Ha! Prose is plenty easy to find. Good prose ain’t. I love that my comment about how hard it is to find good writing was, itself, bad writing.

  3. Katrina Niidas Holm

    Your prose is amazing, which is probably why I love your writing so much.

    Seems like good prose used to be a given; I wonder when it started to go out of style?

  4. Clare 2e

    I always enjoy a little stylishness, and nice, clean, punchy prose? Aside from the aforementioned, I just love Westlake as Stark for that, and I adore Walter Mosely’s precision and lyricism.

  5. Chris

    Ah, Westlake. What I love about his style — particularly writing as Stark — is it’s subterranean. At first, it seems nothing more than plain, unvarnished writing, but the more you read, the more it gets under your skin.

    And I guess I’ll have to check out some Mosely!

  6. David Cranmer

    I’ve never been disappointed by a Stark novel. I still have about ten to read and am taking them slow.

    (Clare, these word verifications are hard to see.)

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