Book Review~~D.A. Spruzen “Not One of Us”; Wiegenstein “On Violence”

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Not One of Us

Not One of Us: A Summing Up

“Rose, a widow and mother of three adult children, is a founding member of the Salton Symphony and one of a group of seven volunteers who call themselves the ‘Symphony Slaves.’  As the story opens, she is in the hospital recovering from a concussion after being found unconscious outside her friend Judy’s house.  Rose cannot remember how she got there, although she remembers finding Judy bludgeoned to death.  This is only the first of several murders that rock the normally dull Salton, a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.
Alternate chapters comprise segments of the killer’s journal in which she recalls her childhood and reveals the warped logic that enables her to eliminate those who threaten her hard-won lifestyle. . .
This psychological suspense, the first of a trilogy, focuses on the characters’ inner lives and the social constraints that bind them.”  

A Question for D. A. Spruzen:

How did you decide to make your main character a serial killer?

“I have always been fascinated by how killers tick. What goes on inside their heads? I can’t imagine driving a fist into someone, let alone a knife. How does that warped behavior come about? The death of empathy? This is why I chose to format this way, so the reader can see how and why she became a killer, and how she rationalizes it.”

Steve Wiegenstein “On Violence”

“There are violent moments in my novels. In Slant of Light, there’s an axe killing, a hanging, and a fair number of gunshot deaths. This Old World keeps up the shootings, along with some stabbing and arson. I try to make those moments surprising, repellent, and true to their characters and contexts. I never want anyone to enjoy those scenes, but I do want them to feel that they are necessary. Violence is a part of human existence, so we can’t write away from it. If you enjoy those scenes, I’m doing it wrong.”

Not One of Us begins:

“Pansy made her first kill at fourteen, albeit with the best of intentions.  But I’m not Pansy anymore. I became someone quite different, despite all the obstacles placed in my path by others, circumstances that forced my hand and made a few more casualties inevitable.

I need to write everything down now–the things I had to do–and try to show  the sense of it all.  When people read it they will understand that I had no choice and not think so badly of me. After all, I never had anyone to stand up for me, I had to solve my own problems the best way I could.  My solutions might be considered somewhat extreme, I know, but I couldn’t lose everything I had always dreamed of and worked for. 

I wanted a good life in a normal place doing normal things. I wanted respect. That meant a good job, a good husband, and a nice home. . .”


Readers of this first novel in D.A. Spruzen’s Flower Lady Trilogy will have no trouble agreeing that, indeed, Pansy is not one of us.  

Pansy is a killer; Pansy was a killer at fourteen.  She is Other–mentally ill, a sociopath, a psychopath.  She is damaged goods.  She was molested as a child and watched her sister abused.  She killed her sister to protect her from more of that abuse.  She blamed her father, who was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison, where he was murdered.  Pansy learned that killing solved problems.  She believed it.


Certainly not one of us.

Nevertheless, we have a good bit of trouble avoiding the fact that, starting with that provocative title, this author is pushing us hard to ask the question

“Is Pansy one of us?”

Steve Wiegenstein “On Violence”

“So many books I read take an entertainment approach to violence. Either it is portrayed as heroic, with sympathetic characters dispatching villains in oh-so-many creative ways, or it’s portrayed as an element in the creation of the hero’s character.”

One reviewer writes about Pansy’s character:

“I’ve actually read this book twice! The second time was a refresher read before launching into the second book of the trilogy.  I enjoyed it both times!  I appreciated the non-traditional protagonist killer. . .She is an admirable anti-hero as the reader will sympathize with her and get some satisfaction from her criminal behavior. . .”

At the end of Not One of Us we are, I’m very much afraid, left with the question that her creator has thrust at us from the beginning of this novel of murder, mayhem, mystery and–yes-meaning: Is Pansy one of us?  I am more confident that most readers will have reached their own decisions about where D.A. Spruzen’s serial killer fits into Steve Wiegenstein’s musings about violence.  I know this reader has.

Not One of Us is the kind of novel, hanging deliciously on a slowly unravelled mystery, that won’t allow passages from much further in than the early chapters.  Too much would be revealed.  But from the very first chapter, I have risked a bit of a clue:

“Too many people knew me in New York in spite of all the time and money I spent on hairdressers and cosmetics to change my look–red hair in a short pixie cut and Cleopatra eyeliner one year, and a nylon ash-blond wig and false eyelashes (a strange 60’s fashion fad) the next.  Each time I changed jobs I changed my look, my apartment, and often my name, too.  New everything. . .”


Lily Takes the Field: A Teaser, not a Spoiler

Volume Two of D.A. Spruzen’s Flower Lady Trilogy is called Lily Takes the Field.414m36OO25L._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_



Another ambiguous title.

Lily=a flower, a woman’s name?

The Field=a grassy acre? an agricultural plot? An arena for action?  A group of people competing in the same activity?

Lilies took over a field devoted to the winter’s bean crop?

A single lily was so beautiful it eclipsed everything else planted there?

Lily, a Standard Poodle, won first prize among all others in her field, at the dog show?

From Amazon, Discretely Edited

“Now known as Lily Porter, she answers an ad for a room to rent in the home of Hilda, an elderly British widow, telling her she is a widow recently arrived from Manitoba. Hilda and her best friend Magaly become fond of Lily, and—to her surprise—she of them. Lily enjoys exploring Toronto, but her newfound contentment is short-lived. A pedophile is abducting and killing little girls and Lily, now working in a local bookstore, suspects that one of her co-workers might be the culprit. When the child of another employee, is abducted, Lily knows she must act; given Lily’s background and proclivities, one almost feels sorry for him. Other complications ensue as some aspects of Lily’s former life come back to haunt her.”

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One Response to "Book Review~~D.A. Spruzen “Not One of Us”; Wiegenstein “On Violence”"
  1. Penny Noyce says:

    Having read Steve Wiegenstein’s second novel, This Old World, I think he has achieved the approach to violence he discusses in his essay. The reader feels the violence gathering, but senses that even those who are going to perpetrate it dread it and would rather respond in another way. It’s not glorified at all.

    I haven’t read Not One of Us, but I look forward to doing so.

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