Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

I am a bit of a sucker for a daft title, even though it frequently explodes in my face. Even then, it did come as somewhat of a surprise to be reading a knitting type book (no patterns ... there are limits). The reason I picked up MAD MEN, BAD GIRLS AND THE GUERRILLA KNITTERS INSTITUTE is pretty simple really - a bit of little light relief after a row of heavy, thought provoking books. Exercise distraction therapy... whatever. Regardless of why I picked this book up, have to say, was pleasantly surprised.

A particular surprise as even though the ground is pretty liberally covered with this sort of accidental detective (in this case though she's an investigative journalist), wrong place / right time, kooky sorts of female based characters, a good one is a rare jewel indeed. Humour being, as we all know, a very subjective and personal thing. For my taste, Scout Davis turned out to be a very enjoyable version thereof.

For a start there's nothing intentionally, or irritatingly daft about Scout. (Yes her mother had a thing about that book - sister's name is Harper...). There's no fem-jep, no lack of self-awareness, and a hefty dose of imperfect sexual exploits. She's a tad older than your average entrant, a little more realistic about life, did I mention not daft, and she's no idiot either.

It is, however, set in Byron Bay so of course it's about secretive American cults with bizarre practices and an online business selling daft irrelevancies to people who are easily parted from their hard-earned. This scenario provides Davis with the opportunity to team up with the mother of a woman who has disappeared into the cult who is, in her own right, a strong and really good character. In fact the book is filled with good, realistic, women. And a few good blokes as well. It's also got a good multi-threaded plot, as simultaneously, Davis has a little time up her sleeve to leap into the exclusive school that her sister teaches at to solve a bullying and property destruction puzzle, whilst also knitting up a Guerrilla Knitting / yarn bombing storm, and do something about her increasing sexual attraction to a local cop and friend of her frequently absent boyfriend.

MAD MEN, BAD GIRLS worked for me for a number of reasons. There's a good plot that's believable and realistic. Scout is a perfectly normal sort of a woman with conflicts and imperfections, as well as a good side, a silly side, and a few odd aches and pains to go with a woman who is not superhuman or all young and perky. The romantic plot of misbehaving while boyfriend is overseas is a classic example of the sort of not quite right behaviour that real people indulge in sometimes when they have their heads in their rear ends, and their hormone's out of control. It might not be palatable for a lot of readers, but it's perfectly believable and refreshing human / flawed / something to be daft about that's not obviously life-threatening and, well, stupid. She's even living with childhood onset diabetes and all of the palaver that goes along with that - reminds you what an intrusion it can be on life.

Obviously this is on the cosy side of silly, but it never lurches into parody or saccharine sweetness. Even the yarn-bombing stuff is funny / risky and just a bit edgy. I notice that the second book in the series GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS is out now as well and that's been added to the must read list. I honestly didn't think I'd enjoy this anywhere as much as I did. Goes to show, sometimes a daft title isn't a warning sign after all.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

When a secretive American cult moves to the Gold Coast, freelance journalist Scout Davis's investigative antennae start quivering. She sets out to expose the cult's lunatic beliefs and bizarre practices, but when she learns the identity of a recent recruit, her quest becomes personal. And dangerous.

The cult isn't the only case on Scout's agenda. Someone is cutting up girls' underwear at an exclusive school and Scout agrees to look into it. And the sinister secret behind the vandalism is not nice. Not at all.

But Scout has her secrets too. In the dead of night she sneaks out with an underground group of yarn bombers to decorate the locality with artworks. The next mission ticks all the right boxes – it's risky, difficult and extremely silly. However, not everyone is amused, and Scout has a sneaking suspicion that the local police sergeant, Rafe Kelly, is hot on her tail.

Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute is frequently hilarious, always surprising, and delivered with a strong cast of charmingly eccentric characters.

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