Fleur de Leigh’s Life of Crime

Diane Leslie’s first novel is a hilarious tale with a bitter undertow. Living in affluent Beverly Hills, young Fleur De Leigh, an observant and sensible girl, leads a life of immense privilege, but she receives no love from her self-centered parents. Her father, the aloof, dictatorial Maurice, is a former movie producer who is reduced to producing an inane television game show. Fleur’s mother, a former B-movie actress, is attempting to boost her sagging career by starring in the melodramatic “Charmian Leigh Radio Mystery Half-Hour.” Conceited and insincere, and with a gift for ignoring her daughter unless it suits her to do otherwise, Charmian also possesses an annoying habit of peppering her speech with French phrases. Fleur is left to get what affection she can from the parade of cooks and nannies who come and go (turnover of domestic help is understandably high in the Leigh household). Her one constant is appropriately named Constantine, the robust, physically alluring and kindly gardener, who gives her the love and acceptance she needs. She also manages to befriend a famous aging actress, Thea Roy, who shows her how to stand up for herself. Between the two of them, Thea and Constantine arm Fleur with the resources she needs to survive her world of poverty cloaked in abundance.

Diane Leslie’s story-telling is deft and Fleur de Leigh’s Life of Crime scores with its light touch, which leaves the reader smiling even as she senses the depths of Fleur’s pain.