Publication Date: May 20, 2005
In No Such Thing as a Secret by Shelly Fredman, Brandy Alexander is a Philadelphia girl living in L.A. and working as a human interest journalist. She returns to Philadelphia after four years away to participate in a friend’s wedding to find that her best friend is embroiled in intrigue relating to a murder at a popular S&M club. When a boat explodes and the friend goes missing and presumed dead, Brandy sets out to solve the mystery with a new friend, Nick Santiago. She hopes to avoid Bobby DiCarlo, the childhood boyfriend who broke her heart. Problem? He’s the lead investigator on the case.
No Such Thing as a Secret is the first novel in the Brandy Alexander series.
This was a fun read. This wasn’t “War and Peace” and I don’t think it aspires to be (though I’ve never read “War and Peace” so what do I know?). Brandy is a very relatable character who wants to get ahead and despite her efforts has landed in a job that doesn’t fit where she saw herself going in life but she’s not bitter. She’s a chocoholic and buys Halloween candy hoping no one shows up. She has good friends with whom she has a strong bond and solid parents who reminded me of my own parents in the way they talk when we’re on the phone.
A lot of novels will list the setting, as a certain city but could have been set anywhere. Not so this novel. Brandy is in Philadelphia and Fredman reminds us with local color of cheesesteaks and tastycakes. I found her local characters to remind me a great deal of my grandparents and Cleveland, Ohio — the area in which they were raised. The blue collar, honest, proud to be American but also proud of where their parents came from; folks who make up a city landscape. One particular moment that brought a tear to this reader’s eye was when Brandy and her friend visit a restaurant and she tells us that her mother says of the restaurant that, “The food isn’t very good, but they give you a lot of it.” My truck-driving and food-loving grandfather said that frequently. A lot of food was his benchmark for frequenting a place. Brandy also tells us that she was a good eater and praised for its…as I remember my grandmother doing and my basking in the glow of her approval. I can relate to Brandy and that is maybe the key to a more successful cozy character.
The mystery plot line of No Such Thing as a Secret, though it can’t be called anything but a cozy, was solid. Brandy’s friend has potential evidence of a murder, he disappears and is suspected dead and Brandy will do whatever it takes to find out what really happened. Things didn’t happen TO Brandy, she made them happen and she did it in such a way that was as smart as she could be. She asked for help before jumping in head first, but if that help wasn’t forthcoming she was still going to jump in because that’s what Brandy Alexander does for her friends. When faced with a potential assault, she saved herself in a creative way, showing us that girl power is not dead in her genre.
As first novels go, this one was very good. Was it a perfect read? Not so much, but we needed to get to know Brandy and in getting to know her, we had to endure some male character leg lifting. Brandy’s ex, Bobby DiCarlo, despite being married, is conflicted in his feelings for Brandy. She’s not crystal clear on what she wants from him either, but she knows he’s married and she’s a woman of principle. One of my favorite lines of the novel is when Brandy tells us that “Bobby used to complete me and now I complete myself.” So rare of female characters of the genre but a realization I so love to read. I know, at that moment, that Brandy Alexander is not a will-she or won’t-she kind of character, she will get the job done.
I have long been involved in fan-fiction based on the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich and heard of this series many times as something someone who likes Plum would enjoy. I heard the parallels drawn to the Plum characters. After reading this novel, even the more capable Stephanie of “One for the Money” doesn’t compare to Brandy. Things always happen to Stephanie that aren’t her fault, but Brandy takes responsibility. One only has to look at the worry she exercised over the car she borrowed from her brother. Morelli also does not compare, in my mind, to DiCarlo. I think both characters are good guys, but Morelli is poorly drawn, whereas Bobby is fleshed out with a sad past, but a past nonetheless which gives us ideas as to his motivation within the story.
I do think that perhaps some fan fiction writers who write Ranger fill in the blanks of his character with the works of better authors like Fredman. In reading, I was struck by how much the fan fiction Ranger (not the canon Ranger) resembles Nick. Is it fair, I wondered, to these authors who write their characters so well to have their work emulated by people who write fan fiction based on other authors? Shouldn’t Fredman have fan fiction of her own? I discussed this with a group of women who had read both fan fiction and Fredman’s novels after finishing this book and realized that the bald fact is that fan fiction is generated by what we want to see happen and if a story satisfies us, we don’t need to look for stories to fill a void.
No Such Thing as a Secret was released in 2010 and is the fourth novel in the Brandy Alexander series. Shelly Fredman says in the discussion of her novels at Amazon that she hopes to have the fifth novel out in Spring 2013. Plenty of time for me to catch up on the series.
Read an excerpt and buy No Such Thing as a Secret by Shelly Fredman on