In the 1990’s, Jennifer Smith, writing under the pseudonym of Jennifer Crusie, established a reputation as the author of romance novels with a feminist slant. Books such as What the Lady Wants (1995) were an entertaining blend of eccentric characters, explicit sex, outlandish events, and snappy dialogue. In Tell Me Lies (1998), Crusie added mystery to the mixture. That work, Fast Women (2001), and Faking It demonstrate the author’s mastery of her new genre, the comic mystery novel.
Faking It is the story of a family that for generations has been selling forged artistic masterpieces but now is threatened with exposure. If the protagonist, Matilda Goodnight, does not recover some paintings she once produced, her reputation for honesty will be gone, and so will her gallery. She manages to enlist the aid of an attractive confidence man, Davy Dempsey, whose own primary purpose is to steal back some money he insists belongs to him.
Meanwhile, Matilda’s sister, who regularly switches between two identities, is trying to conceal that fact from her mysterious new lover. The cast of Faking It also includes Gwen, the mother of the Goodnight girls; her lover, a wealthy embezzler; Nadine, her unpredictable granddaughter; Clea Lewis, Gwen’s rival in love, who is certainly a thief and possibly a murderer; a helpful hit man; and a determined dachshund.
With these characters all hotly pursuing their various goals and each other, the plot becomes more and more convoluted until the end of the book, when everyone is identified, exposed, and rewarded or punished as the author sees fit. If there is a moral to this story, it is that though fakery may not be ethical, it can be marvelously amusing.