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Blanche on the Lam

(Blanche White #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,273 ratings  ·  617 reviews

Barbara Neely’s Smart, Sassy and Groundbreaking Crime Novel
Blanche White is a plump, feisty, middle-aged African-American housekeeper working for the genteel rich in North Carolina. But when an employer stiffs her, and her checks bounce, she goes on the lam, hiding out as a maid for a wealthy family at their summer home. That plan goes awry when there’
Kindle Edition, 213 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Brash Books (first published 1992)
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Fran I don’t believe it states a date but it appears to be contemporary to when it was written so early 90s.

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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Remember how I said I grew up on Christie? It took college to really open my eyes to the insight that I had read very few books by authors who were not white and from an American or British tradition. It became a personal project to increase the diversity of my reading (while still hanging in my favorite genres of mystery, sci-fi and fantasy). I was scanning through my college’s small bookstore, looking for my books for the semester when I saw the Penguin
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blanche White is not exactly a fairy tale heroine like her near namesake, Snow White. She is a strong-minded, kind-hearted woman, who is also a housekeeper in the "post-racial" South. Blanche likes her job and is good at it. One of the many joys of this detective book are the mouth watering descriptions of Blanche's superb Southern cooking. My diet was sorely tempted by these sections!

While on the run for a minor check cashing incident, Blanche ends up at a creepy Southern mansion. She is surrou
Mar 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
She didn't doubt that she could find out what he was hiding. A family couldn't have domestic help and secrets.

A woman whose biggest crime was writing a few bad checks - surely Blanche didn't deserve thirty days in jail, and so when the opportunity knocked . . . Blanche took off. Now a wanted fugitive, she finds herself mistaken for a missing housekeeper.

A wry smile lifted the corners of Blanche's mouth. Life did seem to be poking fun at her, sometimes. Even on the run she had to clean up after
Ivonne Rovira
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I first read Blanche on the Lam in the 1990s, when I devoured all four of the books in the series. Blanche White was unlike any other amateur sleuth anywhere: resilient, generous, comfortable in her own skin, savvy, determined — well, sometimes downright too stubborn for her own good — but absolutely a gem.

Imagine my dismay when, after 2000’s Blanche Passes Go, author Barbara Neely went silent. No more Blanche! No more candid observations about race, gender, body image, or class! No more incred

I received a copy of Blanche on the Lam: A Blanche White Mystery through Netgalley, offered by Brash Books, in exchange for an honest review.

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Blanche on the Lam, Barbary Neely, First Ed., St. Martin's Press, New York, New York, 1992

 photo Neely_zpsbe110079.jpg
Barbara Neely, Social Activist, and Author, born 1941, Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Still hoping to find an employer willing to pay for a full service domestic instead of the bunch of so-called genteel Southern white women for whom she currently did day work. Most of them seem
Lois is recovering slowly
This was light hearted, funny and surprisingly intersectional/feminist. I loved the narrator as well. They were perfect for this story.
Monica **can't read fast enough**
I was worried for about the first half of reading this one because I really want to love this series and it wasn't happening. I felt lost in what time period this was actually taking place in for a while. The things that were happening, the atmosphere and sense of place made me think at first that this was happening in the late 50's or 60's but it is really taking place in the late 80's early 90's (I think). I still don't actually know. If you know the actual decade please let me know! The last ...more
Apr 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I read about this in a recent article in "The Root" about Kathryn Stockett's "The Help." The Root article said that Stockett isn't the first to write from the perspective of black Southern maids, and mentioned Neely's series about amateur (or accidental) detective and professional housekeeper Blanche White. The article suggested that Blanche is the counterpoint to Mosley's better-known Easy Rawlins.

Based on "Blanche on the Lam," I'd say Neely's novels aren't as complex, and are definitely more
Anna Avian
Feb 18, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poorly paced plot and too much buildup. Halfway into the book the murder still hadn’t occurred. Not that interesting overall.
Mar 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
"Don't worry, darling, she'll cooperate. I promise you." Why not just insert "BBWWWwaaaaa Hhhaaa Hahaha" here, with some hands rubbing together?

I like Blanche. She is resourceful and observant. I do not need the nitty gritty details of her every thought to get that. She is worried about the kids. I GOT IT. Stop bringing it up and MOVE ON. The baby steps she takes to describe her characters is maddening. Like this:

"Blanche studied him. She noticed the folds in the corner of his eyes, the thickn
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this book 4 stars because I really like Blanche. However, the story is really slow. The pace didn't pick up until the last 50 pages.
Cheryl James
Apr 30, 2021 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about a Black woman in the world of crime. Looking forward to reading book two. Blanche appears to be a woman on a criminal mission.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, cozies
This could have easily been an average cozy/mystery book. Barbara Neely's ability to grasp and convey race and class issues while also delivering a fun mystery make this book much more than average. ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
The protagonist of this mystery is not what one would typically expect: a maid on the lam from the law for writing bad cheques. The woman at the centre of this mystery is Blanche White, and she's been stiffed by her employer of her wages; Blanche is arrested when her cheques bounce and is sentenced. Blanche escapes the courthouse during a moment of confusion, and decides to hide from the law by taking on a new position as a temporary cook and housekeeper for a family.
Blanche quickly sees things
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I started this expecting a cosy mystery but got something slightly different.
It has some of the elements of cosy; an amateur sleuth, a domestic situation set in a mansion and some humour...
...but Blanche is not really in the mood to be humoured!

The book is permeated with sadness from Blanche's personal situation through to the mystery and the people affected by it.

I enjoyed seeing how Blanche played the parts expected of her being a black housekeeper in a rich white family's house whilst infor
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wish I'd read this series years ago, when I first heard of it! Blanche White is a terrific character -- smart and insightful, using both innate skills and observations gleaned from years working as a cook and housekeeper to probe a spate of murders and other misdeeds. The 2020 Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster, Neely blends smart social commentary with entertaining story-telling. A generation of mystery writers of color cite Neely as their inspiration, with good reason. Fans of the traditio ...more
Maureen Grigsby
Aug 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
I believe this was Barbara Neely’s first mystery. Quite enjoyable!
Craig Pittman
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I picked up this book after reading a tribute to Barbara Neely on the Crime Reads website, written by Kellye Garrett (author of the "Detective By Day" series). I figured it would be a quick read because it was only 215 pages. Boy was I wrong!

Neely's first novel about African-American domestic worker Blanche Lam is a pure delight from start to finish. Garrett's piece did not prepare me for how good Neely's writing is, or for her insights into human nature and race relations in the South. There's
4.5 stars rounded down.
This 1993 novel uses the mystery genre for an intricate, nuanced look at racial discrimination against and its pervasive impact on black folks in small-town North Carolina.
The protagonist is wily, sassy, smart, and resourceful. I'm definitely continuing this series!
Sarah Weathersby
I would never have found this book, if not for one of my reading groups on It was first published in 1992, and first of a series of Blanche White mysteries. We're fortunate to have the series now available on Kindle, as the paperback and hardcover versions are out of print and available as used books.

Blanche is a feisty character who gets into legal trouble for writing bad checks, but manages to sneak out of the courthouse, escaping from a sentence of 30-days in jail. And that's j
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you come across a little gem. This is one of those. Thanks again to @browngirlreading for putting my nose on this series. Neely, the author, said she was inspired by Toni Morrison and P.D. James and I certainly could see both influences. A cosy mystery this may be, but it’s a cosy with a difference. Blanche is a black housemaid in the South and used to walking the fine line that marks her “place”, but she is also not willing to give anymore of herself than she must. As she says, she is ...more
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it
If you're looking for a cozy mystery, I'm not sure whether this book will meet your requirements. However, if you're looking for a book that lets you peer into the psyche of a Black domestic servant working in the thick of the Civil Rights movement South, this may fit the bill.

The time period in which this book is set is never explicitly mentioned but it does mention the 1960s in the past tense. This initially threw me for a loop because Blanche was treated as if she were a slave and not paid fo
Oct 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
Blanche is on the lam for a minor misdemeanor heavily punished by the juducial system, and finds herself hiding as a hired help in a rich white people’s home, who can literally get away with murder.

This is less of a murder mystery than a deep-dive into the consciousness of a black woman trying to make ends meet and trying to survive among people who treat her like a dumb serving machine. Blanche’s thoughts and commentary on how she sees her employers and deals with a long collective trauma that
As a murder mystery, Blanche on the Lam is only so-so: a housekeeper in late 80s/early 90s rural North Carolina figures out that there's murder afoot in the household of her rich employers. The whodunnit is so obvious that the fact that there was no twist or subversion is what's really surprising. But for me the redeeming feature of this book is the voice that Barbara Neely gives to the main character, Blanche. A fat, dark-skinned, working-class Black woman, Blanche leaps off the page. She's obs ...more
Mar 22, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: group-reads
I'd call this a bit of a hidden gem. It took a while to grab me, and did so a little at a time, with a beautiful description here and an insightful observation there. I'd call the observations revelatory, in addition to insightful, as the perspective of the author and main character here is a different one than my own. I appreciate the presentation of experiences that I am unable to have. At the same time, Neely's Blanche was endearing and relatable. I went looking for the next in the series, an ...more
Donna Davis
I was already a Barbara Neely fan when I received this DRC, courtesy of the Brash Priority Reviewers Circle, in exchange for an honest review. I’ve been reviewing books for Brash Books and others for the past couple of years, and had read three other Blanche White mysteries out of order, so when I saw that the first in the series—which I think was the only one I hadn’t read yet—was up for grabs, I nailed it right away. It’s available for purchase now.

The amazing thing to me is that although thes
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, hoopla, mystery
This is the first book in the Blanche White Mystery series and it was enjoyable. I would not classify it as a cozy mystery, but it has many cozy elements to it. The book opens with Blanche being sentenced to 30 days in jail for passing bad cheques. When a disturbance occurs in the halls of the courthouse, Blanche slips out and is now, "on the lam." She heads off to the house where she was originally taking a job for a few weeks as a domestic helper. They are getting ready to head off to their su ...more
Stef Rozitis
This is just the perfect way to start 2021. I was going to just read a chapter or two...or three...or ok seven...or all 14 and I finished the book. It was hard to stop. This book absolutely schools "The Help" on what it should be like. It's less cosy and sweet- the protagonist Lam has more than Sass, Intelligence and Courage (though she has plenty of those) she has a hot, burning rage which permeates everything she does but she is nevertheless very ethical and even kind. She also is fat which is ...more
Heather Montes Ireland
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: _fiction
I love Blanche White! This was one of those books that immediately draws the reader to the main character. Blanche is a domestic worker in the South who gets into "trouble" with the law and hides out for a week working for a rich white family--and ends up solving a series of murders along the way. The author's portrayal of Blanche is as a woman with a fierce intellect and deep interior life, honed by her experience as a working class Black woman and mother, who theorizes the white supremacist pa ...more
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Barbara Neely was a novelist, short story writer, and author of the popular Blanche White mystery novels. The first book in this series, BLANCHE ON THE LAM, won the Agatha, the Macavity, and the Anthony -- three of the four major mystery awards for best first novel -- as well as the Go On Girl! Book Club award for a debut novel. The subsequent books in the series, BLANCHE AMONG THE TALENTED TENTH, ...more

Other books in the series

Blanche White (4 books)
  • Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (Blanche White, #2)
  • Blanche Cleans Up (Blanche White, #3)
  • Blanche Passes Go (Blanche White, #4)

Articles featuring this book

  Kellye Garrett's first novel, Hollywood Homicide, was released in August 2017 and won the Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Independent Publisher...
243 likes · 55 comments
“He gave Blanche the cheeky “Hey, girl” greeting that teenage white boys working up to being full-fledged rednecks give grown black women in the South. Blanche hissed some broken Swahili and Yoruba phrases she'd picked up at the Freedom Library in Harlem and told the boy it was a curse that would render his penis as slim and sticky as a lizard's tongue. The look on his face and the way he clutched his crotch lifted her spirits considerably.” 1 likes
“Maybe his stuff was so good it made her think she could fly!” 1 likes
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