For the third year in a row, Naomi of the Consumed by Ink book review blog and I have guest-hosted each other’s reviews and my review of The Afrikaner by Arianna Dagnino can be found there. Her reviews are remarkable for their insight and perceptiveness of a novel’s strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to follow her reviews of CanLit. Often, we review the same books and it’s fun to see what each other takes away from a book.
Note: this review is based on an Advance Reading Copy supplied by the author in return for a fair review.
Perennial author Lisa de Nikolits is back in 2018 after publishing No Fury Like That in 2017 and The Nearly Girlin 2016. While Rotten Peaches is a slight departure from those two well-known books, the four main characters in Rotten Peaches are cut from the same vile cloth as No Fury’s Julia Redner and her boss/squeeze Junior. This time around, there’s no Purgatory for second chances as there was in No Fury Like That; nor any Dr. Carroll to tell them to “Do the opposite thing!” as in The Nearly Girl. The four only have their dysfunctional moral compasses that keep directing them deeper and deeper into the underside of life.
“God, like luck, has left the building of my life.”
To be fair, everything is not all dismal; the two female antagonists, Leonie and Bernice eventually come to grips with their situation and try to make the best of living with the consequences of their actions. The two men, however, James (JayRay) and Dirk are repetitive losers who are constantly looking to make easy money off wealthy females. There are thieveries, poisonings, sexual affairs, blackmail, racially driven hatred (of the South African kind) and so on. As in her two previous novels, Ms. de Nikolits employs her knowledge of psychology to help one of her characters (in this case Leonie) grapple with their not-quite-hopeless situation, and this gives the reader some food for thought and a respite from all the dirty dealings that are occurring, such as when, back in South Africa, Bernice is taking the law into her own hands:
I can still smell the spilled blood and the acrid sweat that rose from the men’s skin as they died. I lean over the cool toilet, hugging the bowl. You’ll have to live with the consequences, Pa had said. He’s right. I have to get my act together.
Rotten Peaches starts off somewhat deliberately and the characters first appear quite superficial, although I think this is wholly intentional on Ms. de Nikolits’ part; past history demonstrates she knows what she’s doing in the character development aspect of fiction writing. About half of the way through the book, the mood turns foreboding as the plot thickens and all four characters, now fully evolved, are faced with their own potential Waterloos. The reader’s initial dislike of the four ‘rotten peaches’ (and perhaps the plot as well) is remunerated by an ending that cannot be described by any other term other than satisfying. Ms. de Nikolits’ faithful readers will not be disappointed, and she assures me that her next book is more in the vein of No Fury Like That and The Nearly Girl. Now that’s something to look forward to! I rated this four stars at Goodreads for a good “light” crime-fiction read.
Two other thoughts on Rotten Peaches:
Rotten Peaches delivers hilarious thrills and villainous chills right to its final twist. A wild, sexy romp of a book! – Carol Bruneau, author of A Bird on Every Tree.
An avant-garde page-turner, written with honesty and insight that both caresses and shocks.” – Jennifer Soosar, author of Parent Teacher Association.
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