Sequels are always a tricky proposition. You have to play a
different song while hitting the same notes. Clara Nipper’s tough-babe
basketball coach Nora Delaney strikes similar chords in Kiss of Noir as
she did in 2009’s Femme Noir, but there are some substantial differences
that, perhaps, make this an even stronger work.
Ever the hotheaded powderkeg, Delaney loses her college
coaching position after she coldcocks a fellow coach during a nationally
televised game. Smarting from the resulting media frenzy, she lays low in
N’awlins with her cousin, wealthy pawn-shop owner Ellis, and his no-nonsense,
rule-bound wife Sayan. Well, she lays as low as Nora Delaney can anyway—getting
involved with dangerous white women, graveyard sex and, yes, a murder.
Coming in three-quarters of the way through the book, the
murder is not as central to the story here as it was in Femme Noir. The
forceful anti-white diatribe has also been toned down, narrowing and focusing
Delaney’s voice, which is both a boon and a blessing. As written by Nipper,
Nora Delaney is whipsmart and colorful, as are all the characters
here—including the fierce yet tender and motherly Sayan. Nipper’s NOLA setting
also works well, especially in the pawn shop scenes between Delaney, store
manager Cleo and hanger-on Drew. Together, they play dominoes, discuss life and
wait on the occasional customer.
In terms of plot, not much really happens other than the
aforementioned murder, which is very chilling. Delaney finds out how her cousin
has made his fortune, but that’s no big revelation. Delaney escapes to New
Orleans for a rest, and that’s pretty much what she gets. Rather than being a
holding pattern book, though, Nipper uses this sequel to enrich and deepen
Delaney. And you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this one. It’s
definitely a stand-alone.
Kiss of Noir is an interesting, gritty read
with lots of character and will have you looking forward to the next Delaney