I was engrossed within the first few pages. The story, the character, the dialogue, and Kaplan’s balanced and witty prose were quickly addictive. I am rarely guilty of binge reading; I generally read slowly and I stick to a fairly strict regime of reading for thirty minutes to an hour each day. That said, The Bride Wore Dead wrecked my daily routine. I didn’t want to wrap presents anyway, so it was a joyful distraction.
Josie Tucker is a quintessential protagonist. She is cynical and savvy. She is flawed but self-aware. She is highly skilled in many ways, yet humble. Taken out of her quiet, reclusive comfort-zone she stumbles and makes mistakes, but manages to find her way. The unplanned desert expedition is allegorical; I read it so fast and feverishly the first time through that I had to go back and re-read it after I caught my breath. There is so much depth to the character and her story that I may have to go back and re-read from page one. When you see references to Immanuel Kant, Holden Caulfield, and bodhisattvas it’s difficult to resist digging deeper.
I delighted in several moments, character descriptions, and subtle ironies, but here are a few of my favorites:
- “The Latin incantations reminded her of a horror movie…” [Passage describing a wedding]
- “Greta Williams seemed like a person who rarely, if ever, was pleased about how things were going.”
- “Josie brimmed with fermented good wishes.”
- “A few drops of red wine stained the place in front of her, the red liquid spreading through the cloth so that she could see the crisscross pattern of the fibers.”
- “You paged me this morning at 4:30. You said you were dying and you told me to bring a priest.”
- “His silver crew cut hinted at a former police or military career or the desire to have had one.”
- “The pleated skirt and tight sweater might still fit, but there was something indecent about her world outlook.”
- “He shot her a look that made her feel like she’d forgotten some of her clothing. Like her shirt.”
- “Other than the beatings, and the anxiety, I enjoyed myself. For the most part.”
Bottom line: The Bride Wore Dead is an enthralling mystery fueled by an extraordinary heroine. I’m looking forward to the second in the series, Dim Sum, Dead Some.