Hilarious ‘Following Polly’ a mix of mystery, romance

It’s a fine line between being curious about someone’s life and stalking. When Alice Teakle discovers she’s crossed this invisible but crucial line, boy, is she ever sorry.

Life for Alice becomes a little shaky after losing her job as assistant casting director. The sudden departure from her failing career has been abrupt and hard on her self-confidence. Now she has a lot of time on her hands and, after a chance encounter with an old schoolmate, begins to follow Polly Linley Dawson around New York City.

In retrospect, that probably wasn’t Alice’s best idea. Especially when Alice happens to stumble across Polly’s dead body and suddenly becomes the prime suspect in her murder. Looking back, perhaps she should have taking up knitting or something.

In Karen Bergreen’s hilarious “who-dun-it” novel “Following Polly,” she tells the story of the hapless Alice and her adventures dodging the police as she tries to find out who really killed the golden actress with the tarnishing secrets. Part cozy mystery, part romance, and all parts outrageously funny, this novel is one of the most unique tales I’ve run across this year.

Alice and Polly had been schoolmates at Harvard, but that’s not to say they were friends. Polly lived in the rarefied air of being popular, while Alice, well, Alice just trudged along doing the best she could while lusting after an upperclassman she dubbed “Charlie.”

After graduation, Polly went on to become a twinkling star — the owner of a fabulous lingerie line and married to one of the top movie directors. Alice enviously followed Polly’s exploits as she herself worked in a series of iffy jobs, including a stint at the same law firm as her beloved “Charlie.” But Alice’s obsession suddenly comes to an end when, after shadowing Polly for weeks, she finds the golden girl lying in a pool of blood — which spurs Alice to go underground to avoid being imprisoned for a crime she didn’t do.

Alice finds herself contacting her old crush “Charlie,” who is now a lawyer, and enlisting his help in clearing her name, but it might include doing a favor or two for him in return because Charlie has an obsession all his own as he tries to clear his father’s name. Working together, the two find themselves slowly but surely falling into something that looks a little bit like love.

“Following Polly” is one madcap adventure after another, with scenes that will remind the reader of the escapades of “I Love Lucy” one minute and the cloak-and-dagger intrigue of “Murder She Wrote" the next.

A stand-up comedian and former lawyer, Bergreen brings her bright and sometimes biting humor to the pages of this book, making for a completely enjoyable read.

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