Review by: Mark Palm
One of my college writing professors told me once that her favorite kind of thrillers were ones were the writer takes a character who has not a job, but an avocation, or a calling; then the writer dumps them in a sticky situation and watches while they work their way out of it using nothing but the tools and skills of their trade. She claimed that writers as disparate as Donald Westlake and Michael Cheighton were excellent purveyors of this genre.
When I read Notorious by Allison Brennan it occurred to me that this novel fit neatly into this category. And while it isn't quite up there with the best works of the aforementioned writers it certainly is a very good thriller, and well-worth your time.
Maxine Revere is the main character, a crime reporter and True-Crime author who has managed to also anchor a television show about unsolved crimes on cable. For Max though, this is not just her job, but has become her identity, and her passion gets kick-started when she returns home to attend the funeral of Kevin, a friend who was accused, but acquitted, of killing Lindy, another friend, shortly after graduating high school. The whole circle was to the Manor born, except for Max, who ends up in the trust fund set after her mother drops her off to live with her rich parents. If this isn't enough Max is just off of the plane on the way to the funeral when an old couple accost her and asks her to look into the mysterious and unsolved murder of their grandson, which took place only weeks ago, on the grounds of Atherton Prep, where Max and all of her friends attended a few decades ago. All of this takes place early in the book, and for the rest of the ride we are in the capable hands of Ms. Brennan, who smoothly unwinds a tangled skein of a plot with care and skill.
All of the characters are solid and well drawn, but this is Max's book from stem to stern, and she carries it off; smart, funny, self-deprecating, and above all dedicated to revealing the truth no matter what, she is a wonderful lead. It's a blast to watch her as she negotiates the equally tricky terrains of Law Enforcement on one hand, and the very wealthy on the other, each with their own language and customs. Mysteries both old and new are discovered and solved, and in a very satisfying manner. Max is no super hero, but no matter if she is in mortal danger or a moral quandary she makes it through by sticking steadfastly to her guns; the truth will set you free.
My only complaint with this book is one that I have had a lot lately. There is nothing really wrong with it, but saddling a thriller with the same title as the famous Hitchcock film is tempting fate.