Nina had worn a pair of wide black velvet pants and a silk jacket that was meant to be sort of flashy. But she hadn’t achieved the desired effect. The jacket was the colour of Nina’s hair (or, even worse, Nina’s hair five years from now). Nina had thought it understated and sophisticated at its point of purchase, but now it reminded her of something a Shaker might wear. She had tried to tart it up by wearing a black lace camisole under it, but the neckline of the jacket was cut higher than she remembered so a mere inch of lace showed, not enough to reverse the Shaker effect. Her shoes were as high-heeled and provocative as Nina could manage, which meant they came from the Nine West Spa Collection.
observations: Marissa Piesman wrote a handful of leisurely mysteries in the 1990s, and although you don’t hear about them much, I’m a big fan: I'm hoping this blogpost might flush out some other readers. They give a terrific picture of New York at the time, and of a certain kind of life there - heroine Nina is a lawyer living in a tiny apartment, looking for Mr Right in a slapdash manner, visiting her mother and her sister.
She runs across various crimes and does a bit of light investigating. She isn’t Googling the answers, mobile phones are a rarity, people have beepers. And there’s still a lot to complain about in New York.
She watches Seinfeld, but the whole thing reminded me of Friends, and has a nicely grunge-y feel. Nina is hilarious and spot-on accurate about clothes: the TV series of Sex and the City (see here for comparison with the book) was soon to be launched on an unsuspecting world, but I think the passage above is much more true-to-life for most women describing how they put an outfit together. Another of Nina’s great perceptions:
Most people had a peak year that they carried around with them for the rest of their lives. Certain details gave it away: the old ladies with the henna-ed Rita Hayworth hairdos, the Elvis clones still patting their graying pompadours, the food co-op members clinging dearly to their threadbare flannel shirts.- meanwhile her mother is grateful for the invention of tunic tops to cover her rear end.
I was delighted to find mention of a credenza – I read a lot of American mysteries in the 90s, and they all featured credenzas, and I had trouble finding out what they were. Like Nina, I couldn’t Google it in those days…
Honestly, I could read about Nina all day – I laughed out loud at the scene where she and her boyfriend have been interviewing a vital witness, a prostitute, and Jonathan is anxious to compare notes on her vital evidence. Nina answers him:
‘First of all, do you think she spells her name KRISTEN or I-N?’ Jonathan looked at Nina as if she were crazy.-- an increasingly brilliant man/woman conversation ensues.
Marissa Piesman seems to have given up writing crime stories – apparently because she has a serious proper job of her own (possibly something similar to Nina’s…). And that’s a shame – I’d love to read about Nina 20 years down the line.
The pictures are from a fashion magazine of the 90s – the look she describes really was a popular choice then.