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Cece Caruso witnesses a murder, and all the knowledge gained from watching Hitchcock movies can't help her - or can it?

Book Review: Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel

In my review of The Recipe Club posted here on Blogcritics a couple of days ago, I mentioned how, tired of the fluff and air-headedness of some books aimed at women out there, I have been looking for chick lit with substance. Well, my hunt has led me to Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel

I have to admit that, after reading the first few pages, I seriously doubted my ability to pick out good books from a pile. I believe that at that point, my reaction to the story was something along this line: WHAT IN TARNATION IS GOING ON?

Actually, to be honest, that’s kind of the general feeling you and the story’s main character, Cece Caruso, are going to share throughout most of the story, making it all the more fun to read. You don’t quite know what is going on most of the time, and neither does she.

Cece is an author currently working on an Alfred Hitchcock biography. She just canceled her wedding to Gambino and has come back from her honeymoon which she decided to go on alone. She has a new neighbor who is a little odd (to say the least) and, for a woman who already feels like the world’s axis has dipped a couple of degrees, the weird occurrences happening after she witnessed a murder are enough to drive her over the edge. Now while she doesn’t quite go over the edge, she does careen very close to it a couple of times, enough for the poor reader to freak out just a tiny little bit.

What? I like Cece. I didn’t want her to fall apart!

Admittedly, Dial H for Hitchcock is a little hard to read. On the one hand, you really do feel a little lost at times, having no clue (just like Cece) as to what is going on. On the other hand, we have the slight obstacle of Cece herself. The book is written from her point of view, and thus reflects her sometimes erratic modes of thinking. So, in short, don’t start reading Dial H for Hitchcock trying to figure out what is going on. You will only give yourself a headache and consequently not enjoy the often hilarious and sometimes ridiculous adventure our fearless Cece gets herself involved in. Just read, enjoy the ride and at the end, in true Hitchcock style, all will be revealed.

Speaking of which, Dial H for Hitchcock is full of Hitchcock trivia. While it might ruin some of the movies for those of you who have yet to see them (what are you waiting for???), the numerous Hitchcock references are still a lot of fun; some are less obvious than others, but don’t worry, by the end of the book most are explained. Kudos to you if you figured all of them out – there are a couple I really didn’t figure out until it was pointed out to me, at which point I blushed. Embarrassment is a great way to stay warm, though.

The language used in this book is quite simple, and the writing is elegant yet approachable – despite Cece’s often rambling thoughts. It makes for a great sitting-in-a-bus-and-stuck-in-traffic read. Writing in the first person, especially when that person is so all over the place, is a minefield for authors, but Susan Kandel handles it like a pro. While at times I did get a little annoyed at Cece and wished for her to just get a grip, I didn’t stop reading and almost missed my stop (warning to those of you planning on reading this during your commute). Definitely a page turner with a surprise ending that can seem a little anti-climatic but makes perfect sense once you rifle through the book once again and pick up the hints that were there all along.

I wondered if some of the frustration I felt was because I didn’t know Cece. After all, this isn’t the book that introduced the world to Cece Caruso. Perhaps had I read Susan Kandel’s previous books when, before her broken engagement, Cece has been a little less erratic, I would have grasped her character a little more and hence would have had a less difficult time following her train of thought. However, I do not regret reading this book, and if you are traveling this season, you might want to pick it up; the meandering Cece just might keep your thoughts off the interminable and inevitable holiday traveling delays.

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