Go To Helena Handbasket

I don’t know what it means either. For your information it’s a book title. I’d hoped that reading the book would enlighten me, but the Handbasket thing still eludes me. HH is a PI of the most hardboiled variety, and now that I think about it, it goes well with reading over Easter. Eggs, you know.

Donna Moore has written a book that has more clichés in it than I have ever seen assembled in one place before. Intentionally, I hasten to add, since it’s the clichés that make the story what it is, plus the use of the ‘PI formula’, if there is such a term. Helena Handbasket is every PI book you’ve ever read, rolled into one. Donna is very funny, whereas Helena is more stupid than anything. And lucky. Most of the time.

There is only one intelligent character in the book, and that’s Helena’s cat Virgil, and he is seriously misunderstood.

Donna Moore

Other characters have names like Robin Banks, Hal Litosis, Luke Warmwater and Art Ifarti, of the FBI. Yeah, right. I spent the time reading the book imagining it to be set in Glasgow, but now I’m not sure there is any foundation for this belief, other than the fact that Donna lives there.

I met Donna at last year’s CrimeFest, and she ended up dining with me on my birthday, but I hope there have been no lasting ill effects. But it’s good to find someone else who understands about eating and dressing.

This is NOT a children’s book, btw. It should probably be rated 18.

13 responses to “Go To Helena Handbasket

  1. What a great review!
    Especially because you agree with me on the clever cat 😀
    I even added a photo of a very intelligent computer cat next to my review.

  2. I think Virgil could be Donna’s next detective. It would be unusual.

  3. “Going to Hell in a handbasket” is a mysterious English phrase, meaning – well what does it mean? I think it meas going to Hell fast, or something like that. No child would recognise the allusion, though.

  4. Nor would a foreigner, by the sound of it. Thanks, Mary, that makes a lot of sense. I was quite slow to ‘hear’ the name Katya Fallingstar, too. I must have been half asleep with all my late nights.

  5. I think I got most of the jokes, but this foreigner did not get the point of Helena Handbasket either 🙂

  6. As a native speaker I know the phrase, but it’s not that easy to explain, and I was curious about the etymology. Seems it’s older than I thought!

    From the OED:

    k. orig. and chiefly N. Amer.to go to hell in a handbasket (also handcart, etc.) : to deteriorate, esp. rapidly. Also to send to hell in a handbasket and other variants.

    1865 I. W. AYER Great North-Western Conspiracy ix. 47 Thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas, and if once at liberty would ‘send abolitionists to hell in a hand basket’. 1898 W. C. BRANN Brann Iconoclast I. 227 These are the unhung idiots who imagine that a nation..would go to hell in a handbasket if it adopted an independent currency system. 1969 E. CONNELL Mr Bridge xcix. 261 Virgil says the country is going to hell in a basket. Is that so? 1974 Times 19 Jan. 2/4 No amount of dithering and double talk..could disguise the fact that the British economy was going to hell in a handcart. 2004 G. NUNBERG Going Nucl. Introd. p. xii, The language is going to hell in a handbasket.

  7. I’m not a native speaker but I knew the phrase.
    I suppose it’s more old-fashioned and bookish rather than common parlance.

    Example of use:
    Their relationship went to hell in a handbasket as soon as she realized he had sold her down the river and discovering she wasn’t the only bee in his bonnet was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. 🙂

  8. Marco, that fits in so well with the book! I wish I’d known. Should have guessed the title was meaningful, and made enquiries before starting.

  9. Also check out the Grateful Dead’s song “Hell in a Bucket”, which gives another permutation of the phrase and may help explain it further. It’s on the CD “In the Dark” from 1987.

  10. It would seem the phrase is all over the place, if I only look. Coincidence being what it is, I have now also heard it used by a friend about a ‘real life’ event. At least I knew what it meant this time.

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  13. The phrase was bent slightly in the movie “The Loveless” when Willem Dafoe’s character says: “I knew I was going to Hell in a breadbasket”.

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