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12 Bliss Street    by Martha Conway order for
12 Bliss Street
by Martha Conway
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Martha Conway gives us a thriller that teeters hilariously on the edge of farce. Its heroine, Nicola, is an organized, thirty-one-year-old woman in control of her destiny, after shedding from her life her loser ex-husband Scooter and his inventively unsuccessful schemes.

Nicola has just received an eviction notice for her low rental cottage, which is a close commute to the Slash Dezine offices where she works as a web designer. She barely tolerates her 'asshole' boss Guy, with his continual allergies and technical ignorance. Nicola likes to wear silk panties (which give her a feeling that's 'better than chocolate') and sexy lingerie. She takes kick-boxing classes and fantasizes about a dark stranger, whom she often sees in a local café and has nicknamed Chorizo.

It turns out that Chorizo also has his eye on Nicola, but the problem is that he's a sexual predator/serial killer, though with unusual motivations. He does it to generate Internet hard porn videos - for 'middle-aged men with credit cards sitting at a desk chair' - in a moneymaking proposition to free his passionate terrorist wife from a Cypriot jail. Barely missing a meeting with death by Chorizo, Nicola is instead kidnapped by a couple of incompetent teens, named Dave ... and Dave.

Next Scooter appears back in her life. Rescuing him from his latest debacle, Nicola meets Lou, with an assortment of uncles, one of whom is in the loan shark business. When not helping as an enforcer, Lou tries out a new profession; he's a wannabe restaurant critic. Nicola dances around Chorizo as he circles her, and slowly puzzle pieces come together, involving all these delightfully crazy characters. It's a madcap mystery and marvellous fun.

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