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Fleur De Leigh's Life of Crime

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2001

    AN IRRESISTIBLE HEROINE

    Picture Eloise in la-la land and you have an approximation of 10-year-old Fleur, the heroine of Diane Leslie's entertaining debut novel Fleur de Leigh's Life Of Crime, a poor little rich girl saga served with twists of poignancy and humor. Fleur, you see, is a product of 1950s Hollywood, the offspring of wealthy but always climbing show biz parents. A former studio mogul now a producer of television game shows, her father, Maurice, (never call him Morrie) is obsessed with health foods and medical attention. Finding Fleur 'Prone to plumpness,' he 'invented the No Whites Inside Diet' solely for her, and insists that she swim each day. Her mother is former B-movie actress Charmian Leigh, creator of 'The Charmian Leigh Radio Mystery Half-Hour,' a program with an audience numbered in the tens of millions. Self-described to producers as 'the cute-as-a-button type,' Charmian tosses off French phrases with the same alacrity that she discards any vestiges of maternal responsibility or interest. Thus, Fleur's upbringing is left to nannies, a series of them, as she explains: 'We'd been studying Bedouins in my fifth-grade class, how they carried only what they needed or loved on the backs of ornery camels, and how other, territorial groups kept them hopping. In my experience nannies were far more nomadic. They had time at our house to knit just one argyle sock, complete just one jigsaw puzzle, or paint (by numbers) just one seascape before my mother made them repack their belongings and move on.' This procession of pseudo caregivers is the spine of Fleur's story. Glendora, the first nanny we meet has 'an extravagant bosom.' When in motion 'her spidery, hennaed hair wriggled around her face.' Upon discovering that Charmian has had an amorous encounter with Glendora's boyfriend, a Beverly Hills cop, the nanny absconds with some of the Leigh's expensive bibelots. Next, Bettina, who suffers from migraines, and wears 'mile-high heels' as well as custom-made lipstick flecked with real gold is briefly in residence. Her successors include Helga, 'a gorgeous young blond, exquisitely tall,' dubbed the 'Scandinavian Amazon' by Charmian; a former orphanage resident, Clover, who treats the Leigh's Christmas party guests to a 'spirited rendition of 'Que, Sera, Sera;' and Miss Hoate who directs Fleur to 'Go stick your head down a toilet. Do you catch my drift?' then nails blankets across the windows lest Commies steal her medical discoveries. The cast of characters in Fleur's life is further enlivened by Suzie Duvic, an actress with 'the loudest, shrillest voice in Hollywood,' and Constantine, the Leigh's gardener, who possesses a torso 'embossed by 'smooth clusters of muscle' and wears a cap 'fashioned from the thigh end of a lady's nylon stocking.' Although surrounded by capriciousness and falsity, Fleur is a resourceful, resilient child who learns that she can not only survive but flourish. With her Dutch-boy bob and savvy observations of adult behavior she is irresistible. Ms. Leslie, a former television researcher who was born in Hollywood, is an imaginative, accomplished writer. Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime is a winning debut.

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