Kandel, Susan 1961-
Kandel, Susan 1961-
Home—West Hollywood, CA. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, art historian, critic, and editor. Artext (magazine), editor. Taught art history and theory at University of California, Los Angeles, Art Center College of Design, and University of California, Santa Barbara.
"CECE CARUSO" MYSTERY SERIES
I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Blue Nancy, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Not a Girl Detective, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Shamus in the Green Room, Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
Christietown, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of criticism to periodicals, including Los Angeles Times.
In an unusual career move, art historian and critic Susan Kandel decided to leave her job as editor of an art magazine and devote her time to writing. She plotted a mystery novel that included noted fictional attorney Perry Mason as well as Mason's creator, author Earle Stanley Gardner, and the result was the 2004 novel I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason. Kandel's plot concerns Cece Caruso, an ex-beauty queen from New Jersey who becomes involved in a forty-year-old murder case while researching a biography of Gardner. During her research, Cece discovers that Gardner had been asked, through his Court of Last Resort, to help a man convicted of murdering his wife in tracking down the real killer. Gardner never solved the case, and now Cece decides to investigate the murder on her own. Her adventure includes the murder of another woman involved in the case as well as threats to her own life.
Writing in Library Journal, Rex E. Klett commented that Kandel's "lively and slightly idiosyncratic heroine, the sometimes exotic California surrounds, and the complicated plotting make this series debut essential." In another review of I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, a Publishers Weekly critic deemed the mystery's denouement "a bit over-the-top," but hastened to add that "readers should give Cece a warm welcome to the legion of perky female sleuths." New York Times Book Review contributor Marilyn Stasio noted that "Cece's bright personality, along with her clever analysis of Gardner's classic mysteries, make future adventures a promising prospect," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded: "The verdict: thumbs up to newcomer Kandel's series for its snappy dialogue and carefully worked-out plot."
Kandel has followed up her debut mystery with several more books in the "Cece Caruso" series, among them Blue Nancy and Not a Girl Detective. In Not a Girl Detective, Cece is writing a biography of Carolyn Keene, the pseudonymous author of the beloved "Nancy Drew" mystery novels. When a wealthy collector of Nancy Drew memorabilia is murdered, Cece finds herself a target as she strives to learn what the killer wants from her. "The characters are deliciously drawn, the pace is snappy, and the plot twists and turns will keep mystery lovers satisfied," wrote Kim Dare in a review of the book for School Library Journal. Dare went on to note that "the icing on the cake is the depth of Kandel's research" into the Nancy Drew series and book publishing during the series' popularity. In her Entertainment Weekly review, Tina Jordan wrote that "Nancy's adventures were downright staid compared with Cece's wild ones."
Shamus in the Green Room finds Cece working as a consultant on a movie titled Dash! The film is based on her latest biography, which focuses on Dashiell Hammett and his most famous character, Sam Spade. Cece is in San Francisco conducting research with Rafe Simic, who will play Hammett in the film, when Rafe's childhood sweetheart turns up, murdered, in Los Angeles. Referring to the book as "fun" and "stylish," a Publishers Weekly contributor added that the "plot [is] sure to tickle Hammett fans." As a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote, "a midsized dash of Hammett spices" up the "rollicking fourth" installment in Kandel's series.
Kandel's protagonist, Cece, is reprised for the 2007 Christietown, in which the writer/detective is busy on her latest biography of a dead mystery writer: the queen of mysteries, Agatha Christie. Then, when she discovers there is a theme park being built in honor of the British writer, she is anxious to find out about it. Ian Christie, who claims a relationship to the deceased writer, is the developer of the project, and Cece, though somewhat suspicious of the developer and his development, is soon brought on board to stage a play about Agatha Christie for the grand opening. However, murder upsets such plans when the star of the production is found dead. Cece's private life also intrudes, as her former spouse makes an appearance and her daughter announces that she is pregnant. Cece is also busy with plans for her own wedding in this "fun cozy mystery," as Rachael Dimond described it on the Fresh Fiction Web site. Dimond also felt, however, that the "writing dragged and the mystery wasn't captivating enough." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly found Christietown an "entertaining but thin fourth puzzler" with a "contrived mystery plot [that] disappoints."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Entertainment Weekly, May 14, 2004, Nina Wildorf, review of I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, p. 75; May 27, 2005, Tina Jordan, review of Not a Girl Detective, p. 146.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, p. 302; March 1, 2006, review of Shamus in the Green Room, p. 212.
Library Journal, March 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, p. 111.
New York Times Book Review, June 27, 2004, Marilyn Stasio, review of I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, April 12, 2004, review of I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, p. 42; February 27, 2006, review of Shamus in the Green Room, p. 36; March 19, 2007, review of Christietown, p. 45.
School Library Journal, August 2005, Kim Dare, review of Not a Girl Detective, p. 151.
Fresh Fiction,http://www.freshfiction.com/ (August 22, 2007), Rachael Dimond, review of Christietown.
Mystery Reader,http:www//themysteryreader.com/ (December 22, 2007), Cathy Sova, "New Faces 40—Susan Kandel."
Susan Kandel Home Page,http://www.susankandel.com (December 2, 2007).