No doubt about it. Repeating phrases gets our attention. Starting sentences with the word “and” causes a second look, too. We look forward to reading murder mysteries because they typically flow smoothly from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph and page to page. Before we know it, we’re done. Pausing a moment to reflect on the action, the motivations of a particular character, or the ethical and moral questions posed adds to the reading experience. Faced with a situation where we have to go back and re-read a paragraph or a passage to figure out what is happening is an unwelcome distraction. Such confusion interferes with the concept of suspending disbelief and attention is called to structure and construction of what we are reading — instead of getting lost in the story. This was our experience with The Hat.
Author, Babette Hughes, has created an ensemble of characters with whom many readers will empathize. Adult children of alcoholics and readers who can remember the teen angst of dealing with friends who dressed better and ran in better economic circles will find it easy to identify with protagonist Kate. Well to do friend, Vivian, their parents, friends and lovers make up the usual suspects. It is questionable how many readers will find sympathy for a cast of characters that this reviewer had a hard time finding likable.
Told in the first person, The Hat revisit’s the plight of a young woman married to the mob. This time, it’s the Jewish underworld during the age of prohibition. A love triangle develops, and in the end we discover the origin of the title.
We’ve reviewed other novels by women writers with women heroines in this genre and found them to be engaging mysteries. The Hat could be a romance, a murder mystery or a soap opera — but has difficulty finding its niche. No doubt about it.