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So reads the report on the accident off Mulholland Drive in Molly Blume’s Crime Sheet column for a weekly Los Angeles tabloid. Just another small L.A. tragedy, soon forgotten.
But the image of the young ...
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So reads the report on the accident off Mulholland Drive in Molly Blume’s Crime Sheet column for a weekly Los Angeles tabloid. Just another small L.A. tragedy, soon forgotten.
But the image of the young woman in her nightgown stumbling along a dark, winding road is one Molly, a freelance true-crime writer, cannot shake. In fact, it draws her to a bedside in intensive care, where the victim whispers to her three names: Robbie, Max, and Nina. It’s not a smoking gun, but is sufficient to reinforce Molly’s gut instinct that there are sinister circumstances behind the assault on Lenore Saunders.
With fearless conviction, Molly asks questions that nobody—including Lenore’s mom, her ex-husband, her shrink, or even Molly’s L.A.P.D. buddy, Detective Connors—wants to answer. Nevertheless, the astute Molly discovers Lenore lived a fractured life, so different from Molly’s own secure and loving Orthodox Jewish background. And as a chilling picture of the unfortunate woman begins to take shape, the menace of murders past and present stirs and quickens.
In her first Molly Blume novel, award-winning novelist Rochelle Krich tells a story in the tradition of the great L.A. mysteries of the past—and introduces an investigator who is pure gold. Twentysomething divorcee Molly Blume, with her deep faith, short skirts, and nose for the truth, is a heroine to cherish.
From the Hardcover edition.
It was the nightgown that hooked me:
Sunday, July 13. 1:46 a.m. Near Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon. An unidentified woman in her mid- to late-twenties, wearing a nightgown, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that left her unconscious and seriously injured. There were no witnesses.
That’s how my copy would read in next Tuesday’s edition of the Crime Sheet. We’re not talking Chandler or Hammett—just the facts, ma’am. There would be no speculation about the nightgown mentioned in the police report, or about the woman wearing it.
Had she been in distress? I wondered. Desperate, maybe, her hair flying behind her like a banner as she dashed across the serpentine road, oblivious of the oncoming car? Had she been running for help, or away from something or someone? Had she been looking behind her in that final moment before the car slammed into her, several tons of metal crushing muscle and delicate bone, or paralyzed by the headlights, feral eyes gleaming menace in the dark, moonless night?
My editor, who constantly carps about lack of space, would probably cut the nightgown. People don’t care what she was wearing, Molly, he’d argue. For me, the nightgown was key. And in my opinion, it’s details like this that give the Crime Sheet its quirky flavor.
I’m a freelance reporter and I collect data from the Los Angeles Police Department for a section in the local independent throwaways that people read to find out what crimes are taking place in their neighborhoods and fig- ure out how nervous they should be. I also write books about true crime under the pseudonym Morgan Blake. I’ve always been inquisitive (“Excellent grades marred by interrupting class with too many questions”), and ever since I can remember, I’ve been drawn to crime stories, true and fictional. So with an English degree from UCLA and extension courses in journalism, I set about channeling my curiosity into a career.
As to my love of crime fiction, I inherited that from my maternal grandmother, Bubbie G (the G is for Genendel, a name Bubbie has forbidden any of us to mention although I think it’s cute). Bubbie, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Europe with my late grandfather in 1951, taught herself English and cut her teeth on Erle Stanley Gardner. Soon she was devouring four or five mysteries a week—cozies, hardboiled, Agatha Christie to Elmore Leonard—and whenever she babysat us kids, she’d read to us from Dr. Seuss and a few chapters from the latest mystery she’d picked up from the book sale table at the library. Of course, she skipped some of the choice words, something I didn’t discover until I became addicted myself.
None of my siblings (there are seven kids in the Blume mishpacha; I’m number three) share Bubbie G’s love of mystery, which gives Bubbie and me a special bond. The mystery gene skipped over my mom, Celia, who, aside from teaching high school English, has published one romance novel under the pen name of Charlotte D’Anjou, my father’s favorite pear. (Bartlett came in second.)
I suppose it’s funny that we both use pseudonyms, though our motives are different, and there’s nothing funny about mine. My mom does it because it fits her romantic sensibilities, and I suspect she’s not ready to test the reactions of her students and principal. I do it to protect myself from the criminals I write about, people for whom I have a healthy fear and from whom I’d like to keep my identity and address secret.
Because mystery fiction is different from true crime. There are experiences Bubbie won’t talk about, ever. There are events I choose not to remember that worm their way into my consciousness despite my efforts to keep them out. It’s those events and Bubbie’s unspoken past, not curiosity, that compel me to try to find out the why of the horrible things people do to each other. And there are moments when the sadness of the fractured lives I’m investigating makes me wonder whether my mother doesn’t have the right idea.
Lookout Mountain, the spot where the woman was hit, is about half a mile south of Mulholland, which is halfway between the city and the San Fernando Valley. I added the information to my hollywood computer file and, with a stack of note-filled pages and several photocopies of police reports in front of me (some divisions will give me photocopies, others will allow me to take notes “under scrutiny”), I proceeded to enter the details of other misdemeanors and felonies in the Hollywood area:
Sunday, July 13. 3:37 a.m. 8400 block of Fountain. A man broke into a woman’s home and raped her.
Sunday, July 13. 8:08 a.m. 8500 block of Beverly Boulevard. A suspect, angry about his cellular phone service, threatened his service consultant, saying, “I’m going over there to shoot and kill you.”
Monday, July 14. 9:58 p.m. 5700 block of San Vicente Boulevard. Sometime during the morning a thief removed money from a woman’s artificial leg.
You get the picture.
I had finished inputting half the police data and was returning to my office with a refilled coffee mug when the phone rang. The Caller ID on my desk phone told me it was my mother, who knows I generally don’t take calls when I’m writing. It’s so easy to destroy the gossamer filaments of creative thought, so hard to spin them.
I’m an excellent worrier, and my mind ran through several dire possibilities as I picked up the receiver. “Is everything okay, Mom?”
“Everything’s fine,” she said, panting. “I hate to interrupt you, Molly, but Edie wanted me to call right away.”
For my sister Edie, everything has “right away” significance. “You’re not interrupting, Mom. Why are you so out of breath?”
“Edie let us have a five-minute break from class,” she said, referring to the weekly Israeli dance lessons my sister gives. “She wants to set you up with someone. He’s very special. Brilliant, funny, sensitive, handsome.”
One of Bubbie G’s favorite jokes is about a shadchan (matchmaker) who raves to a young man’s parents about a girl who has everything: beauty, intelligence, a sterling character, wealth.
What doesn’t she have? ask the skeptical parents. A long pause before the shadchan replies: Teeth.
It’s even better in Yiddish.
“What’s the hitch?” I asked now, sandwiching the cordless phone receiver between my head and shoulder as I stirred artificial sweetener into my coffee.
“There’s no hitch. He’s thirty, just a year older than you are. Never married.”
“What does he do?”
My mother hesitated. Teeth, I thought, and then I heard her say, “He’s a rabbi.”
I laughed out loud. “I don’t date rabbis. I don’t even like most of them.” An exaggeration, but the idea was too ridiculous. “What was Edie thinking?”
“She says he’s a real catch, Molly. She wants to set this up quickly, before someone else grabs him.”
“Let them grab.” Ever since my divorce two years ago, my sister Edie has made it her mission to find my true bashert—my destined love. It’s probably easier to find a Kate Spade bag on a clearance table.
“One date can’t hurt. Edie says you know him, by the way.”
“Edie probably booked the Century Plaza for the wedding and ordered the flowers for the chuppa.” The wedding canopy. “What’s his name?” I took a long sip.
“Zachary Abrams. He’s—”
I coughed violently, spraying mocha droplets over my laptop and the papers on my desk. “I went out with Zack Abrams my junior year in high school, Mom. Don’t you remember? He French-kissed me.” All of which Edie knew. No wonder she hadn’t called me herself.
“That’s more than I care to know,” my mother, the romance writer, said dryly.
“Zack’s a rabbi? You’re sure?” I was back in his parents’ gray Pontiac, steaming up the windows with stuff that would be rated G today, and the memory was quite pleasant, to tell you the truth.
“The rabbi at B’nai Yeshurun is retiring,” my mom said, referring to a modern Orthodox synagogue about half a mile from my parents’ home. “Zachary Abrams is his replacement. Edie’s friend Harriet is a member. She thought of you and phoned Edie this morning.”
“You know that’s the Hoffmans’ shul.” The Hoffmans are my ex–in-laws. Since the divorce I’ve bumped into them several times—the Orthodox Jewish world in L.A. is small—and the encounters have been polite but strained.
“I can see that it might be awkward, Molly. But you shouldn’t let that get in the way.”
“Get in the way of what?” Way too small, I decided.
My mother sighed. “So should I tell Edie no?”
“Tell her yes,” I said, surprising myself and my mother, whose “Really?” conveyed the relief of a hostage negotiator braced for failure. “Just for old times’ sake.”
I had no intention of hooking up with a rabbi, or with Zack, with whom I had unfinished business, but I was curious to see what twelve years had done to him. They had added the hint of a few lines around my brown eyes, an inch to my five feet four, and five or six pounds that, like the tide, ebb and flow but make no discernible change to my topography.
After mopping up the coffee from my keyboard and papers, I refastened my unruly blond hair with a banana clip and tackled the rest of the police reports. An hour later I was done, and after stretching my cramped neck and back muscles and flexing my fingers, I sat down again and accessed the piece I was writing, an update on the chromium six some of us Angelenos are apparently sipping with our lattes. Yes, just like Erin Brockovich—life imitating art based on life—but I guess our city council members hadn’t seen the movie, because they were planning to study the effects of the chromium for five years before deciding what to do, if you can believe it.
I took out my notes and started writing, but the young hit-and-run victim kept calling to me, saying she had a story to tell. No, I don’t hear voices, but sometimes I have a sense about things. I think I get that from Bubbie G, too.
I wondered if the woman had died.
Posted October 24, 2012
Posted September 5, 2012
If you're looking for an intelligent yet light read in-between all the "aught to tackle" books staked up on your book shelf, Rochelle Krich's Molly Blume mystery series is for you. (Note the name-play on James Joyce's 'Molly Bloom' in Ulyssus.) Blues in the Night is the first of Ms. Krich's books for me, and I wasn't a bit disapointed. The book is very well-written. You'll sense almost immediately a modern day Ms. Marple mystery with a healthy admixture of insight and humor. However, our Molly is young, pretty, and observantly Jewish. Very well done!
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Posted February 22, 2012
Krich deftly blends a compelling mystery, a sassy but totally believable main character and details of life of Modern Orthodox Jews. This is not only for mystery fans but for readers who like good writing, character development and wit that does not veer into to slapstick. Am now in her second in the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2007
With all the build up for this book, I was sadly disapointed. I gave up after 100 pages. Normally I do not mind if a book is equal parts mystery and character relationships. This one just falls short. Molly Blume, 'Crime Sheet' reporter, is obsessed with the image of a young woman running down the middle of the street in a nightgown, and then gets run over in a hit-and-run. A good plot beginning, but then it is derailed by a sudden romance that begins very early in the book, and also by the educational information that the reader receives about the Orthodox upbringing of Blume. The surrounding characters are wooden at best, and too stereotypical of secondary players(the hunky suitor, the wise-old grandmother, the ex-husband/jerk, and the arrogant politician/suspect). All in all, there are better stories out there. Spend your wisely, and skip this one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2003
'It was the nightgown that hooked me. Sunday, July 13. 1:46 A.M. Near Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon. An unidentified woman in her twenties, wearing a nightgown, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that left her unconscious and seriously injured. There were no witnesses.' So begins Blues in the Night, Agatha Award winner Rochelle Krich's first novel starring Molly Blume (shades of James Joyce's Ulysses), a 29-year-old, five-feet-four blonde divorcee who is a freelance reporter for Crime Sheet, a weekly Los Angeles tabloid. A lovable character who is Modern Orthodox Jewish (an oxymoron?) by religion, Molly is not only a true-crime writer but also an amateur sleuth who wears short skirts, loves to play mah jongg, and, although not having a well-stocked frige, hordes a serious stash of junk food. Intrigued by the newspaper snippet of the hit-and-run accident off Mulholland Drive, Molly visits the hospital and talks with 26-year-old Lenore Saunders, who is recovering from the trauma, but who remembers nothing of the accident. She does, however, whisper three names to Molly: Robbie, Max, and Nina. The plot thickens when a nightshift nurse discovers Lenore's dead body, her wrists slit open. Was it suicide or murder? Was Lenore an angel, a tragic figure who killed her infant son while suffering from a postpartum psychosis? Or was she a devil, a manipulative schemer who planned the murder even before Max was born. Suspicious that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, Molly digs into the case and finds stubborn resistance from Lenore's mother, Betty Rowan; Lenore's ex-husband, Robbie Saunders; Lenore's best friend, Nina Weldon; and Lenore's shrink, the brilliant and ambitious Dr. Lawrence Korwin. Even Molly's L.A.P.D. buddy, Detective Andy Connors, is skeptical that murder is involved--until Molly begins to dig into the past and fit the pieces of the puzzle together. And, of course, by asking too many questions of too many people, Molly puts her own life in jeopardy. The solution of the mystery, and the pulse-pounding climax of the tale, occurs when Molly discovers Lenore's secret diary and the identity of the killer is revealed--at peril to Molly's life. A tangential romantic theme involves Zack Abrams, a high-school Romeo who, years ago, jilted Molly and left her heartbroken but who now reappears in her life as the rabbi of a nearby schul. Molly is a spunky character; she has chutzpah. And Rochelle Krich's novel, like her heroine, is zesty, with engaging humor, wit, and wisdom, and numerous Yiddish proverbs, parables, and bon mots thrown in. One is particularly arresting: 'The truth does not always set you free.' One fondly hopes that the adventures of Molly Blume will continue.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
She is a woman blessed with great parents and good friends. Her faith in the Jewish Modern Orthodox religion sustains her and perhaps that is why Molly Blume is a true crime writer and a columnist for Crime Sheets for the local independent papers. One police report catches her interest concerning Lenore Saunders who was out in the middle of the night miles from her house wearing only a nightgown. <P>Molly is so curious that she visits Lenore in the hospital where she blurts out three names to her: Robbie, the ex-husband, Max, the two month old son she killed while in a post partum depression and Nina, her best friend. Further investigating leads Mollie to learn that Lenore was visiting Robbie because she was afraid and wanted to spend the night. She also called Molly telling her she was afraid before she hung up and visited Robbie. Molly is convinced that Lenore was murdered in her hospital room and she wants to find out who did it, not realizing that by her actions she is putting herself in danger. <P>BLUES IN THE NIGHT is an excellent novel that gives readers a glimpse into the customs and culture of the orthodox Jew. The mystery is well crafted and exciting but the protagonist is the star of this work. She is strong-minded yet flexible and willing to help a person in trouble. Although she wants to write a book about Lenore, her main goal is to see justice done. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 15, 2009
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