Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What does Humphrey Bogart have to do with Kelsey Rae Dimberg's Girl in the Rearview Mirror

While we love whenever our customers have a book come out, it's particularly exciting to see a debut from a Friend of Boswell at a major house. And Girl in the Rearview Mirror is just that, a novel won at a competitive auction by William Morrow and published today. So what indeed does Humphrey Bogart have to do with Kelsey Rae Dimberg's debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror? After all, the story is set in contemporary Phoenix, and the main character is a nanny, about as far from the actor well known for his role as Sam Spade in the adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's classic noir novel, The Maltese Falcon.

As Dimberg tells Jim Higgins in Sunday's Journal Sentinel, "Girl in the Rearview Mirror has roots in classic noir films that Dimberg came to love while she was in graduate school at the University of San Francisco. Back then, she was writing traditional literary fiction, including what she called 'my sad guy novel,' full of emotion and angst. But after seeing a noir double bill in 2009 - Dimberg thinks it was While the City Sleeps and Shakedown — she plunged into that cinematic genre. Soon she was writing, for fun, the novel that became Girl in the Rearview Mirror.

Dimberg also told Higgins that she made her protagonist a nanny because who else knows the secrets of a family so well, with no real commitment to keep them secret? A nanny is also a great job for someone running away, and that fits Girl squarely in between the genres of noir mystery and psychological suspense. We've got the detective equivalent (as we've noted, there are less and less classic private investigators to star in novels but no shortage of other professions to fill the bill) in the nanny, trying to unravel what's going on in this family. But like many psychological suspense characters, our hero is also not completely trustworthy. She's got her own secrets, and she's withholding them from the reader.

Katherine Nintzel at William Morrow offered these thoughts on why she acquired the book in a letter to booksellers and other early readers: "The first thing that gripped me about Girl in the Rearview Mirror was the voice. I saw it from the first page, and I hope you do too: Kelsey Rae Dimberg is a writer working in a classic noir space, but bringing a real modern angle to it."

Like many protagonists in novels that straddle the psychological suspense genre (which generally includes any novel that has Girl in the title), our protagonist is running away from something and is not exactly trustworthy. But unlike some antiheroes that are trying to cause trouble, Finn inadvertently finds herself in the thick of a conspiracy and would like nothing more than for it to go away. Her fumbling only makes it worse.

Girl in the Rearview Mirror is getting some great reviews around the country, like this stunner from Jay Strafford in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: "As Dimberg reveals the secrets and lies that animate her tale, and as a river of death runs through it, even the most astute readers of suspense fiction will find themselves engulfed by multiple stunners, including an explosive and unforeseen conclusion. Dimberg, who holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of San Francisco and is a former editor-in-chief of Lux, the literary magazine of Barrett Honors College of Arizona State, set out to write a novel that places morality - or its absence - at the heart of the story. She succeeds with verve and intensity - and her initial effort foreshadows a brilliant future."

As I mentioned, we've had some great reads on Girl in the Rearview Mirror as well. Here's Boswellian Tim McCarthy's take: "I was absorbed by this novel, by its quick start and strong pace, and I like the way Dimberg uses politics as the context for people's lives without letting political issues become a distraction. The characters are well developed, Finn having a bold determination to find the truth mixed with a lot of self doubt. Her mutual attraction with Amabel's father Philip is a subtle but important element of the story, never becoming a nanny stereotype. Above all, the tragedies and the suspense moved me. Deeply. I truly look forward to Dimberg's next work!"

Here's my silly elevator pitch: It's like Noir moved from San Francisco to Phoenix because of the cheaper cost of living.

The book is on sale today. We gave Dimberg a sneak peek at the books piled on our shelving cart. She also signed preorders. Our event is this Thursday, June 20, 7 pm, now cohosted by Crimespree magazine. Here's our debut novelist on Morning Blendwhere she talks about how the book took eight years to write. I'm sure you'll be charmed and want to come out and see her on Thursday. Why not get your book signed* and take a photo with Dimberg and Humphrey Bogart? And if you're from out of town and want a signed first edition, we can get that done for you as well. Here's the order link.

If you are reading this post from metro Chicago, Madison, or Phoenix, Dimberg is visiting your area too. Here's her schedule.

Chalkboard credit - Rose Camara

*It's 20% off, through at least June 24.

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