Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series
As I understand it, Judith Copek decided to self-publish her mystery Festival Madness because agents told her that readers would not accept the protagonist, Emma. This is one reader who not only accepted her, but found her refreshingly different. While she has the impetuous courage typical of the female amateur sleuth, she breaks the mold by being unapologetically polyamorous.
She makes me think of Laura Kipnis’s Against Love, and the first line of chapter one: “Will all the adulterers in the room please stand up?” Social scientist Kipnis analyzes, with wit and insight, the phenomenon of modern romantic love and infidelity, including romantic love that occurs during infidelity. Festival Madness brings this to life in the midst of a whodunit that goes from the tech industry in Boston to Burning Man and back.
If Kipnis is right, a lot of women, whether they have acted on their fantasies or not, will identify with Emma’s temptations and attractions, and like her, not condemn her. I found myself rooting for her not only to solve the murder, but to keep on being Emma in all her freedom.
“So just as a thought experiment—though it will never happen to you and certainly never has—please imagine finding yourself in the contradictory position of having elected to live a life from which you now plot intricate and meticulous escape: a subdivision getaway artist, a Houdini of the homefront. … this turn of events may raise fundamental questions about what sort of emotional world you want to inhabit, or what fulfillment you’re entitled to, or—for the daring few—even the nerve-rattling possibility of actually changing your life.” (Pp13-14, Against Love)
Against Love is described as a polemic, intended to set off a few little explosions, to challenge the ideology of “the current emotional regime.” It’s not for infidelity in being against the modern way of romance. Infidelity stands in for all kinds of longings and dissatisfactions. Curious? The two books are a wonderful chance match.
Festival Madness is tight and vivid, though it was not a page-turner for me until the protagonist arrived at Burning Man. Once Emma gets to “the Man,” the book comes to life and so does she. The scenes at that festival are well worth the wait.
I found the progress of the plot compelling from that point on, and did not figure out “whodunit.” The ending disappointed me with a slightly-too-convenient end for the bad guy, although it was set up believably. A minor issue in an excellent book. I would read this author again.
Another let-down for me at the end is not plot-related. It has to do with caring about a character. The protagonist makes a decision which, based on the events in the book and the relationships described, doesn’t seem to promise her happiness. I can’t say it’s not realistic, but … I liked Dust Bunny.
A Last Confession
What lively lad most pleasured me
Of all that with me lay?
I answer that I gave my soul
And loved in misery,
But had great pleasure with a lad
That I loved bodily.
Flinging from his arms I laughed
To think his passion such
He fancied that I gave a soul
Did but your bodies touch,
And laughed upon his breast to think,
Beast gave beast as much.
I gave what other women gave
That stepped out of their clothes
But when this soul, its body off,
Naked to naked goes,
He it has found shall find therein
What none other knows,
And give his own and take his own
And rule in his own right;
And though it loved in misery
Close and cling so tight,
There’s not a bird of day that dare
Extinguish that delight.
W.B. Yeats, from the poem cycle, A Woman Young and Old