Maureen Cooke

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide” (2019) by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark is fun to read but a challenge to review.

The book defies categorization. Equal parts how-to guide and co-memoir, the book is a natural offshoot to the authors’ podcast, “My Favorite Murder,” which combines true crime, humor and self-help.

The podcast’s success, and now that of the book, is a tribute to the women’s genuine connection with one another and their quirkiness.

In a style that mimics their podcast banter, the authors write conversationally, alternating chapters. They write with humor and compassion as they share stories from their past.

Kilgariff recollects her mother’s struggles with Alzheimer’s. She writes of the time she lost her temper with her mother, and she writes about a friend who asked her at a party about her mother’s Alzheimer’s.

Kilgariff recounts telling him the disease is a lot like being trapped in the movie “Jaws,” except you’re not allowed to get out of the water, and the shark, who is 20 miles away, is the slowest shark in history, traveling less than a mile a year. At first, you think you’ll be OK, but then everything that bumps against you feels like the shark, and you can’t stop the fear and anxiety.

Kilgariff explains to her friend that eventually “… you start rooting for the … shark.” It is a remarkable revelation portraying Kilgariff as a daughter conflicted by her mother’s illness.

When Hardstark writes about becoming a kleptomaniac at age 13, she uses humor, acknowledging she went through an awkward stage and a kleptomania stage at the same time.

“Most people,” she writes, “keep those phases separate, but I … have always been an overachiever.”

The humor throughout “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered” works well. Kilgariff’s chapter on being a latchkey kid is quite funny, as is Hardstark’s chapter on discovering Stephen King’s horror novels.

However, as funny as those stories are, what is remarkable is the advice interwoven with that humor. Kilgariff and Hardstark advise their readers, especially women, to abandon politeness, as it can get a woman killed.

At the book’s beginning, Hardstark writes about being 19 and the time a middle-aged man offered to photograph her. When she got into his car, she felt uncomfortable but didn’t want to be impolite.

As the man drove her to the top of a mountain, Hardstark again felt uncomfortable but didn’t want to be impolite. As a result, by the time he asked her to take off her shirt, so he could photograph her topless, she felt as if she couldn’t say no.

Hardstark and Kilgariff let their readers know they can always change their mind, say no and be impolite. Valuable advice.

I admire this book. I admire the writing, humor and advice. However, be forewarned: The language can be rough.

If the f-word offends you, this book is not for you. However, if language does not offend you, read this book, and, while you’re at it, check out the podcast, too.

(Maureen Cooke has been writing, editing and teaching others to write for the past 30 years. Currently, she’s working on a mystery novel and a memoir. She’s a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group.)

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