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The Social Climber's Handbook    by Molly Jong-Fast order for
Social Climber's Handbook
by Molly Jong-Fast
Order:  USA  Can
Villard, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Of her novel's heroine Molly Jong-Fast writes, 'As a child she had believed in God and in witches, and in vampires, and in monsters. She didn't believe in those things anymore. She was as close to a witch as there could ever be; she was as close to a monster as the earth could hold. What was there to be afraid of when you were the scariest thing you could think of?'

What makes Daisy Greenbaum so scary? Well, unbeknownst to her friends and family, this Manhattan Upper East Side socialite and mother of twin daughters just happens to be a cold blooded serial killer. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying here. Daisy doesn't venture out of her posh Park Avenue apartment to randomly murder people. Perish the thought!

With the exception of her first victim, a classmate and frenemy she killed at summer camp as an adolescent, Ms. Greenbaum only eliminates those individuals who threaten her current well-heeled lifestyle.

When her husband's boss threatens to fire him and thus destroy Dick Greenbaum's ability to manage the couple's debt load, Daisy handles the problem. In fact, she does such an excellent job that Dick is promoted to the now vacant position.

Unfortunately, Dick also has a wandering eye (actually that's not all that wanders!) but Daisy is willing to put up with his indiscretions as long as he doesn't talk about leaving her. But when two of her husband's mistresses pose a real threat to the family's well-being, Daisy acts with cold- blooded resolve and eliminates the problem.

As the author explains, Daisy could get angry with people like her husband's mistresses but she didn't go ballistic like a normal wife might. 'She was less angry than normal people because she had a wonderful outlet for her rage, something that worked much better than bargello, something that worked much better than needlepoint or spinning or even smoking. Yes, Daisy found that murdering people really cut down on her rage.'

The irony of this dark, edgy comedy that takes a while to strike the reader is that although she may appear to be quite ruthless, Daisy Greenbaum is surrounded by equally ruthless people. Motivated by her lust for social prominence, deep down insecurity, need to be liked, and obsession with her twelve-room Park Avenue apartment, Daisy does some unspeakable things.

But those around her who are also pursuing the same things - wealth, fame and social standing - are capable of some pretty unconscionable acts. In fact, in a bizarre way she is more forthright in how she deals with people. She doesn't smile and then stab you in the back…she just stabs you in the back!

No doubt you may be wondering what becomes of Daisy in this quirky novel. Sorry; that would ruin the fun and the story's ending. You'll have to find a copy and see if and how justice is finally served if, indeed, it ever is!

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