Review: The Iron Girl

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Fans of the Jane Lawless books, Ellen Hart’s series about the intrepid lesbian Minneapolis restaurateur and sleuth, will rejoice to be once again in the company of Jane Lawless and her eccentric circle, including the silent but expressive Mouse, the priceless Cordelia, and diva-in-training Hattie.

It’s been years since the death of Jane’s partner, Christine. She’s got a long-distance romance brewing, and she’s considering a second restaurant, a fancy Art Deco-themed club in Uptown. Determined to move on, Jane finally brings herself to go through her partner’s effects, only to discover that the gun-hating Christine was packing heat a few days before her death. Jane’s questions about why her partner would have been carrying a gun lead her to re-investigate to the apparently solved triple murders of members of the fabulously wealthy and bizarre Simoneau family, Christine’s employers in her last days. To complicate matters, Jane rapidly becomes involved in a troubling and troublesome friendship with Greta, a young naïf who just happens to be a dead ringer for Christine.

The narrative is haunted, as is Lawless, by her dead partner, Christine, whose long-silent voice drifts through the story like wispy smoke. The portraits of Bernadette and Laurent Simoneau, the brother and sister relics of the Simoneau family, are particularly entertaining. Bernadette’s gushing aspiring authoress is done to a fine turn, and the childishness of the relations between her and her crank brother Laurent, is a chilling counterpoint to their darker pastimes.

Hart’s talent for witty dialogue has been called British in its cadence, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that characters fresh from Fergus Falls would have recourse to the urbane repartee that Hart bestows on Greta. But the girl has got to do what she can, with theater maven Cordelia on one side and the acerbic Jane on the other.

_Lucy Vilankulu lives in Linden Hills, where there are bunnies in the backyard, and unfortunately for the bunnies, a hawk. She is editor of Minnesota Literature._

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