Zwerfster Chic

I read Zwerfster Chic, which means “Bag Lady”, at the request of the author.  This is a story of the experiences of mixed race children, PTSD, crime and redemption, childhood bullying, and the feeling of being unaccepted and unwanted. Zwerfster Chic is Billie Kelgren’s debut novel, published April 12, 2018.


Elise McNeil is a mixed-race FBI Special Agent who spent nine years in prison, and is now paroled.  She accepts a job with a private and very secretive security company that requires her to become associates with a known con artist, Maria Sofia Catalina Marianna Garcia, a.k.a., “Mia”.


Even though she hasn’t had time to acclimate herself to normal civilian life or to recover from PTSD, Elise accompanies Mia around the globe as Mia targets one of the world’s richest men.


Black people consider Elise to be white, and white people consider her to be black. Because of this, she has never felt accepted anywhere – a demoralizing emotional effect on a child. Kelgren addresses the issue in Elise’s thoughts and conversations.


Zwerfster Chic is a powerful story, but is told in a very disjointed way with many flashbacks and grammatical errors which a good editor or proofreader should have caught. For example, in the middle of a dynamic action scene, Elise begins telling the reader of an event in her childhood, then reverts to the action. It was mental whiplash for this reader.


Because of this, I found myself flipping back through pages to see if I had missed something, for example two women were speaking, then suddenly “he” did or said something – who is “he”? More mental whiplash.


As with most books written in first person, italics are used to show the narrator’s thoughts. However, in many places, italics, rather than quotation marks, are also used for dialogue. About half-way through the book, the prose began to flow more smoothly, and the italics for dialogue disappeared in favor of quotes. It was as if Elise had had a personality change.


What Makes This Book Reviewer Grumpy?


  • Acronyms the general population doesn’t know: POD, BOP, JFCI, CS;
  • incomplete sentences;
  • missing commas;
  • verb tense disagreement;
  • brought here vs. take there;
  • split infinitives;
  • capitalization errors;
  • one-sentence paragraphs;
  • confusing “further” with “farther”.

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