The First Book
Would you call Alice Teakle a stalker? Or just someone with an, um, healthy obsession with golden girl Polly Linley Dawson? No one much notices Alice: not her boss, not the neighbors, not even her Mother.
Besides, everyone follows Polly: her business selling high-end lingerie you can imagine only her elegant self wearing, her all-over-the-social-pages marriage to movie director Humphrey Dawson, her chic looks, her wardrobe. Alice just follows her a little more….closely.
And when she loses her job and starts to follow Polly Dawson one Manhattan autumn afternoon, Alice stumbles on the object of her attention sprawled dead on the floor of a boutique. Alice is forced to become truly beneath anyone's notice. Invisible, in fact. Because she's accused of murder.
But can another obsession help save Alice with the fallout? Charlie is Alice's longtime unattainable crush. He might be able to help her out of the mess she's in…in return for a favor or two, that is. And how will Alice find out if Charlie is really the man Alice thinks he is?
From Publishers Weekly
It’s like Comedy Central picked up Law & Order for an episode in standup comic and ex-lawyer Bergreen’s breezy debut about a rootless, jobless, and loveless snoop in search of her lifelong dream. Fired from a crappy job with a selfish, nasty casting director, Alice Teakle begins obsessively stalking Harvard frenemy Polly—and winds up the top suspect in her murder. But that’s where the fun begins: slipping out of police custody, Alice begins stalking Charlie, her college-days romantic fantasy who she hopes can save her from prison. Charlie takes her in, forging a deal that he’ll help get her off the murder hook if she helps out with a problem his father’s having. But Charlie and Alice sweetly discover a far deeper need of each other. Bergreen makes good use of her comedic skills and varied professional background to create a sharp whodunit that combines edgy thrills with a wicked sense of humor and an endearing heart of gold. (June)
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“Karen Bergreen’s Following Polly sparkles. It’s got wit and energy, along with fabulous characters to love (and loathe). A fine first novel: polished, acutely observed, and delightfully mean. What fun!” – Susan Isaacs, author of Close Relations
“I LOVE this book. It’s funny, original, satisfying and a real page turner. Karen Bergreen has created a lovable heroine who is a bundle of totally unique neuroses. I couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait for the sequel!” – Susie Essman, author of What Would Susie Say?
“Funny, intelligent, accessible. Following Polly captures what makes Karen one of my favorite comediennes.” – Jim Gaffigan, actor/comedian/writer
“Stalking, dysfunctional family, murder and unrequited love – what could be more delightful? It’s a great read!” – Joan Rivers, author of Men Are Stupid...And They Like Big Boobs
“Following Polly is a delicious debut novel. Murder most foul is most fun, and Alice Teakle is so clever and quirky a protagonist – or is she a perp? – that you won’t be able to stop reading. Bergreen is a wonderful new voice in the mystery world.” – Linda Fairstein, author of Hell Gate
“It’s like Comedy Central picked up Law & Order for an episode...combines edgy thrills with a wicked sense of humor and an endearing heart of gold.” – Publishers Weekly
The New York Times says, “Add (Following Polly) to the bookshelf. . .”
In the Press
FOLLOWING POLLY by Karen Bergreen:
Alice Teakle has been laid off. Unsure what she wants to do with her life, her mother suggests therapy. Her therapist suggests a life goal. Then, out of the blue, Alice runs into a former—and hated—college classmate: Polly Dawson. Polly Dawson has everything— money, class, great husband. But Polly is not a nice person. In an admittedly poor spur-of-the-moment decision, Alice begins to follow Polly: certainly if Polly has it all, she must be doing something right. Maybe in following Polly, Alice can discover the secret. Unfortunately for her, someone has it in for Polly and Alice is the perfect scapegoat. On the run and unable to turn to family or friends, Alice starts following someone else. Someone who may be in a position to help her discover Polly’s killer and clear her name. Honesty, I wasn’t sure about Alice Teakle in the beginning. By the time Polly is murdered, though, and the unlikely heroine goes on the lam, she’d won me over. Following Polly is a witty mystery with an eccentric cast of characters. It’s a debut that definitely makes you take notice. I’d love to see what Karen Bergreen does next. 06/10 Becky Lejeune
From The Huffington Post
I wrote a book because I didn't have enough to do," says Karen Bergreen, her comic wit a constant
companion. Her debut novel, Following Polly, is a comedic murder mystery
about a Harvard-educated stalker, and it has many, including the New York Times, talking. And pretty much,
while they are talking they are laughing, not only because the book is a
laugh-out-loud page-turner, but because Bergreen herself keeps people
laughing. Harvard educated herself (but lacking the stalker status of
her protagonist Alice Teakle), Bergreen may be one of only a handful of
NYC comedians who not only holds a law degree but also practiced law.
And it's a good thing that she is no longer practicing, otherwise her
talents would have been wasted in the generally un-funny world of
Bergreen is naturally funny, innately silly, and her appreciation of
her own humor is contagious. In other words, she says something funny,
laughs at her own clever comment, her audience (whether an individual or
group) catches on and then laughs with her. She has been gifted with an
ability to craft spot-on cleverness, on the spot.
That Bergreen wrote a book because she "didn't have enough to do," is
classic Bergreen. This comment, which adorns her webpage, simply called
says it all because in actuality Bergreen couldn't be busier. The
writer and mother of two young boys by day, comedic actress, stand-up
comic and comedy teacher by day and night, not to mention wife (let's
go with, by night), is a working mom, albeit in the untraditional sense.
Bergeen works out of a home office in her NYC apartment, where her
little boys can be heard playing, often in the same room, though she
calls this "bothering her" not necessarily "playing." Add Bergreen's
requirement for a healthy lifestyle that includes cooking for her
children and working out daily and, despite her own personal adoration
for the television, a no-television policy for 6-year-old Danny and
4-year-old Teddy, and Bergreen is one busy writer.
So, how exactly does a juggler like Bergreen do it? Has she figured
out the magical formula that all working (full and part time) Mom's are
seeking -- the mother's version of the Fountain of Youth that give us
"No," she says unequivocally.
Though I wonder, since she creates time where it doesn't really
exist. A born and bred New Yorker, Bergreen says she wrote half the book
on the subway, and that was with pen and paper rather than a laptop or
iPad. "It gave me a mood to follow. A lot of the book is New York. I was
almost recording things that were happening. The B-roll."
Unlike other writers with children, Bergreen says she definitely
relied on a variety of babysitters. She doesn't consider herself a
magician-like wordsmith. "Some writers say 'I wrote when the baby was
napping and I whipped things out of the computer.' I couldn't do that,"
says Bergreen. "I had babysitters because I am not that efficient. Even
with babysitters on hand - if I am home I end up doing a lot of
childcare myself. I had to be okay with not writing at the pace I would
have written at without kids ... In some ways, this might have helped
me. Often, ideas would come to me days or weeks after I'd started a
chapter, and it gave me a chance to let them simmer and build. If I'd
gotten it all done efficiently, in a day and a half, the way some
writers seem to do I might never have gone back in and made it better.
Then again," Bergreen laughs, "maybe that's just pure rationalization
for not getting more done."
So Bergreen, who considers herself far from perfect as a mother and
wife, wrote a book about the non-perfect woman's obsession with the
perfect woman. Alice Teakle embodies the average woman while Polly
represents perfection. She is gorgeous, thin, smart, blonde, cocky to
the point of bitchy and a complete narcissist. "If you don't know a
Polly, then you are a Polly," Bergreen quips. "I think people
are in awe of people who are attractive and put together. Could be our
society, could be biological." Right away, we find out that Polly has
been murdered, and the non-perfect protagonist, Alice, becomes the lead
suspect. (We find this out on the book jacket, so there's no give away
here). Is this the revenge of the nerds? Perhaps. "My dream," Bergreen
says, "is for people like Polly to wake up and say, 'I'm a bitch,' to
really realize it, and to then be nicer and kinder."
Of course, it seldom happens. Perhaps its why Lifetime Television
has had so much success with their show Drop Dead Diva, about a perfect Polly type who dies
in a car crash and "wakes up in someone else's body." The "someone
else" is an average Alice Teakle type, and we finally get to see
"perfect Polly" come to the realization that she is/was awful.
Since writing instructors always say, write about what you know, this
begs the question: Was Bergreen ever a stalker? Suspected of murder?
"No, not either," she says jovially. "I think that's where I am more
mentally healthy than Alice. The stalking was fantasy completely. Of
course, I would love to stalk someone, sure, but I wouldn't do it. It's
like comedy. The fun part of my jokes on stage as a comedian is that
it's the fantasy of what I would want to say in real life if I could.
The stalking that I write about in the book is what I would do if I
It may have taken Bergreen two years to write the book, which she
began when her older son was three and continued writing after the birth
of her second, but nothing seemed to deter her. She was passionate
about the idea of fulfilling a dream, a theme that found its way into
the book. "It wasn't something I thought of before I wrote the book. I
think we sometimes do things to pass the time. We have jobs, we get
married, we have kids, and we aren't thinking of the vision we have for
ourselves. We need to stop worrying about what people think. Like my
main character, having a focus on something in particular helps. I think
there was probably a time when I was lost, I had those same depressed
feelings that Alice has. But, as soon as she found something to focus
on, Alice lost that depressed feeling. It's the same thing in life. The
focus is what ultimately gets you through."
From Mystery Scene
Following Polly is a murderous romp featuring a clever and gently
unhinged protagonist. Author Karen Bergreen, a professional comedian,
exercises her comedic skill in creating New Yorker Alice Teakle, a
perpetually underemployed (now unemployed), Harvard grad. Alice harbors
unresolved resentment toward her former dorm-mate, Polly Linley Dawson,
who has developed a wildly lucrative career as an entrepreneur in the
fashion industry. With time on her hands, Alice takes on the bizarre
task of stalking Polly and discovers the usual sexual indiscretions;
however, nothing too dramatic occurs—until Polly is murdered, and Alice
is named the prime suspect. Alice goes on the lam and seeks to identify
the actual murderer. Along the way, she develops an unusual relationship
with Charlie, the object of her college fantasies. Despite the
screwball nature of this mystery, it works, and memorably so.
Moreover, one of Bergreen’s major strengths as a writer is her
ability to create witty repartee. The quick, ever-sarcastic Alice is
highly entertaining. Also, Alice has an uncanny ability to navigate
various strata of society, from the extraordinarily wealthy to the
homeless. Her incredible resourcefulness and ready wit are guaranteed to
—Lynne F. Maxwell
FOLLOWING POLLY by Karen Bergreen: Alice Teakle has been laid off. Unsure what she wants to do with her life, her mother suggests therapy. Her therapist suggests a life goal. Then, out of the blue, Alice runs into a former—and hated—college classmate: Polly Dawson. Polly Dawson has everything— money, class, great husband. But Polly is not a nice person. In an admittedly poor spur-of-the-moment decision, Alice begins to follow Polly: certainly if Polly has it all, she must be doing something right. Maybe in following Polly, Alice can discover the secret. Unfortunately for her, someone has it in for Polly and Alice is the perfect scapegoat. On the run and unable to turn to family or friends, Alice starts following someone else. Someone who may be in a position to help her discover Polly’s killer and clear her name. Honesty, I wasn’t sure about Alice Teakle in the beginning. By the time Polly is murdered, though, and the unlikely heroine goes on the lam, she’d won me over. Following Polly is a witty mystery with an eccentric cast of characters. It’s a debut that definitely makes you take notice. I’d love to see what Karen Bergreen does next. 06/10 Becky Lejeune