"Antiques Knock-Off" by Barbara Allan: Book Review

"Antiques Knock-Off" by Barbara Allan
Kensington, 228 pp., $22
Reviewed by David Marshall James

Brandy Borne is infanticipating, as Walter Winchell used to phrase it, although the baby isn't hers.

Rather, she's in full surrogate mode for best friends Tina and Kevin, which, in the Best Friends Department, ranks somewhere between giving bone marrow and donating a kidney.

Unconventional pregnancies figure into Brandy's personal history, as well as into the plot of this fifth, bountifully amusing Trash 'n' Treasures mystery.

You would think that a city named Serenity (fictitious, on the Mississippi River)-- filled with tourist-attracting Victorian edifices, antiques shoppes (as opposed to plain old "shops"), and bistros-- would be, well, filled with some serenity as well.

Not with Brandy's mother, Vivian, knocking about. And Brandy, too, for that matter.

They're slightly nuts, and on the meds to prove it. However, Vivian's basket of pecans (or peanuts, or walnuts, or Brazil nuts, or what-have-you) does appear quite a bit heftier than Brandy's.

Sorry, Vivian. Yet, we're sure, given time, Brandy will catch up with you.

The two women somehow manage to cohabitate (undoubtedly with a little help from their meds), along with a blind, diabetic poochie name Sushi, and a houseful of plunder ostensibly headed to their stall at a downtown antiques mall. Not the same as "shoppe," where the prices carry more zeroes.

While Brandy is infanticipating, Vivian is directing herself in a production of "Opal Is a Diamond," although she's about to land in the hoosegow (Vivian's word) for a murder she didn't commit.

Even though she says she did it.

That Vivian: Nutters. Or, has she just watched "Mildred Pierce" one time too many?

The deceased, Connie Grimes, had a lengthy history of unpleasantness (all right: she's a witch with a "b") with Vivian and Brandy and most of Serenity's citizens, at that.

If she hadn't been stabbed only once, you'd think the general populace would have lined up to have a go at her (as in "Murder on the Orient Express") with one of her tarnished kitchen knives. Then Connie could have used herself as a collander.

Barbara Allan== pseudonym for the accomplished wife & husband mystery-writing team of Barbara and Max Allan Collins-- serves up plenty of red herrings (although, unless you're Scandinavian, you probably don't like herrings, red or otherwise) in a deliciously (in spite of the herrings) funny mystery replete with parenthetical asides (and amusingly direct addresses to the reader), borne on the capable shoulders of Brandy and Vivian.

* * *