Friday, 13 March 2009

Rachel and the Hired Gun by Elaine Levine.

What is Sager's full name? I don't think we ever find out.

This is basically a terribly nice and sweet romance, with omg! some pre-marital nookie. (Shame!) A lot happens in the story. The heroine is menaced by a rabid wolf, cattle-rustling, a homestead is attacked, a wicked step-mom is murdered a barn is set on fire, our heroine is kidnapped by thugs, the hero is drugged but his good friend conveniently steps in to save the day. But at no point in the novel did I feel either the hero or heroine was in any kind of danger. There was no actual evidence that Sager was in fact a 'hired gun'.

Both Rachel and Sager have had difficult early lives. But their emotions are entirely straightforward. Nothing twisted and certainly no bitterness. Take Sager. At one point he discovers that he'd been the lover of the woman who'd had his native american adoptive family murdered. I didn't get any sense of shame or guilt. Actually he should have been seriously ashamed that he'd done the dirty with his step-mom and that maybe his step-bro was actually his son!!! But there's none of that in the book. I liked Rachel. Because although she knows she's been brought home to marry the son of a local rancher, there is no question at all that she loves Sager and has no intention of allowing her family to pimp her into a loveless marriage. See. It's easy to be honest. In fact. I failed to see too much of the supposed enmity between Sid and Old Jack. I really enjoyed the scene where naked Sager teaches naked Rachel not to be afraid of swimming in a river.

Rachel is actually some kind of superwoman. She cooks, plants vegetables, shoots guns...and never feels a shred of fear. The characters of the main villains, Cassandra and Tom are very thinly written. The author is one of those writers who seems to have had no experience of nasty backstabbing people and so is unable to portray that kind of person with any degree of reality. tbh that made a nice change and its part of the reason why I liked the book. However the story did take me about 3 weeks to read through because there is absolutely no tension to drag the reader from one chapter to another.

There were some obvious series setting scenes towards the end of the book. (Julian, the two weird women, etc) The most unrealistic scene of all was were Sager and Sid basically give away 150 head of cattle like they were worthless beads.

Don't for a moment think this story is in any way comparable to the mind-blowing Only You (Willow and Caleb) or even the masterly Spanish Stirrup. But all in all. An ok read. Just strangely emotionless and superficial.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Three In Death by J D Robb.

Interlude In Death.

I loved this. Because it was short with minimal padding. And the writing is just so much better imo. The theme is basically the same as Vengeance In Death. Namely; a parent twisting their child to become a murderer. Don’t know why. I just like that theme. If you broaden it out, you get Jim Jones, David Koresh and innumerable cults. I think therefore I am. None of the misguided children in Vengeance or Interlude seem to have done any thinking or questioning for themselves. No vampires either. Just human people gone wrong. Fantastic. I actually like how Roarke skates around legality. And I like how Eve doesn’t dress like a hooker but is still attractive. Unlike Diana in the previous p.o.s. that I read. More nookie too in this one. However I’m sure I remember in the first few In Death novels there was usually a scene where Eve for some reason either took her clothes off or ended up naked in front of strangers. That’s missing from this story. As, thankfully, are Nadine and the needy singer, whose name I’ve forgotten. There’s a supposed photo of Eve on the back cover. Looking incredibly like a young Nora. Personally I’ve never thought of Nora as anything other than a writer. Actually I much preferred the photos of the Dickinson look-a-like posed as Eve on the cover of the earlier editions of the In Death novels.

Midnight In Death.

I’d read this before. Which is always the danger when you buy an anthology of previously published work. I didn’t like it the first time around and nothing has changed. Basically the plot although not too graphic is far too nasty. A serial killer who likes to torture his victims before he murders them. And suddenly he wants Eve as his ultimate victim but oh, he’s going to kill 3 other people as well. That’s where McBain’s (aka Sal Lombardo!!) 87th precinct stories started going wrong for simple me. When he invented perps who wanted a personal relationship with the cops. David Palmer, the serial killer fixates on Eve who put him away. I’ve never heard of such a case. It just seems too illogical to me. Most criminals seem to understand that it’s their crimes that result in their incarceration….not the boring detective that headed the investigative team. Dave succeeds in kidnapping Dr Mira but oh, unlike all his previous victims he doesn’t torture her while he’s waiting for Eve to show up. He leaves her unharmed. That didn’t make sense. Nor did the fact that he was able to single-handedly take down Mira’s protective team of 3 trained officers. And just what did he expect to do to Eve once he’d made the exchange? Seeing how he knew she had a back-up team waiting directly outside the house. So basically none of the denouement scene made sense in the light of the build-up he’d got in the early part of the story. Just as well. But Eve didn’t come out of it too well either. Seeing how too many innocent people died before she solved the case.

Haunted In Death.

This story is just ok. Nowhere near enough romance between Eve and Roarke. The plot is interesting for the fact that Eve is amazingly unsympathetic about the murder of Bobbie Bray many years ago. This is the same woman (Eve) that felt obliged to leave no stone unturned when searching for the murderer of her abusing former foster-mom, even though it resulted in another child she had mistreated going to jail forever. So in Eve’s self-righteous world being a junkie is worse than mistreating kids. I feel obliged to add that in a couple of recent In Death books I felt that Eve was wrong to catch and jail the murderers. Both of whom had been terribly abused by the so-called victim. Some people are so evil they deserve to die. But Eve doesn’t seem to have the humanity to see that. Eve has been around some 20 years now. She needs to show she has mature views of the world. Not just the same opinions she had when she first joined the NYPSD.

Great rom-sus...but not a romance.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Darkness Calls by Caridad Pineiro

I felt sorry for the hero Ryder. Turned during the Civil War, he feels attracted to FBI Agent Diana, a woman who at 19 years old “recovered from the heartache of a long-term relationship gone sour” by going on a 6-month bender and getting a tattoo. Similar to 17 y.o Bella falling “irrevocably” in love with Edward. Ryder will probably struggle to cope with her yakking about inane trivialitities 24/7 on her cell. There’s a lot about 21st century living that really isn’t particularly attractive. But I suppose enough people are happy with it.

I stopped being a fan of cop shows ever since I read the pathetically low crime-solving statistics of most police forces. Which was after the first series of Law and Order which I loved. But also I behave in completely safe ways so I just don’t meet much crime. Most fictional agents I read about, like the heroine in this novel, have super-confidence in their abilities. And they show it. I prefer the subtleties of Colombo. Now he was confident enough to let the perps think he was a bumbling idiot. Great. Did I mention the Rampart business? Hilarious. Unless you’re in the position where you actually rely on these people to uphold the law.

No such nuances in this story. The heroine continues to be a pain. She feels instinctive trust for a man who socks her on the jaw…because he’s handsome. And then feels disappointed because he doesn’t follow through on a promise he clearly made under duress. Ryder isn’t a suspect. Yet her response to his non-appearance at the police station is to threaten a warrant of arrest. Being a cop of any sort requires a lot better people-skills than that nowadays. Diana’d struggle with any kind of big investigation. She’s totally one-dimensional. And for a cop to have a relationship with a possible suspect should be completely out of order.

I also hated the food scenes. Perfectly acceptable if you’re a successful middle-aged romance-writing blimp. But to eat “a plate of pasta swimming in olive oil topped with prawn-size shrimp” in your mid-20s is just too gross for words. An invitation to obesity. The way the vampire hero forces himself to chomp down garlic-bread (another hello to cardiac arrest in later years) because the heroine likes it made me lose empathy with the putz.

Generally this is a novel in which there is only minimal demarcation between work and personal life. So about half of the relationship building between Ryder and Diana goes on while she is miked up. And when those two get down to it for the first time; of course her work partner David knows she’s done the deed just by looking at her. Not that it’s really any of his business. I’ve met women like Diana. Having chosen a career in a predominantly male environment they slowly work their way through their colleagues and/or supervisors. One after the other. The work-place psychologist also gets told by Diana about her encounter with Ryder. I squirmed. In the end I just so wanted Diana to get fired or re-assigned to traffic duty. It was painful reading about her bumbling around the case.

I lost my remaining empathy for vampire Ryder when he drank from Diana during sex without telling her what he was doing. Dumb bunny Diana just accepted his story that she’d passed out from excitement!!!! Ok. She’s unlikely to realise Ryder is a vampire. But if she was any kind of real cop she’d have thought that maybe he’d given her some kind of drug and videotaped their session. Actually. From that moment on I thought Diana had a lot in common with the hookers the BDB used to drink from before they fell in love with their chosen females.

However I persevered with the novel. Until page 202 where the grisly torture of Ryder began. Isn’t it strange how modern female authors struggle to portray the deep emotion of love but are so effective at writing about excruciating pain. I don’t buy a romance to read that kind of thing. I checked out at that point. Silhouette should warn gentle readers such as myself about R-rated scenes appearing in their novels. They didn’t. So I will. Avoid like the plague unless you enjoyed the Hannibal Lector movies. But maybe that is the modern young female romance reader.( I wouldn’t be surprised.)

Final word. Of course a talented author could have carried me along to the end of the story despite the torture. But so much of the novel before page 202 was just cack. Ryder is an interesting relationship for Diana. That will probably last 1 year, max, and then she'll move on to the next relationship. Despite that. I can see why the book was successful. Vampires, sex, torture…all for 50c. Excluding p&p. From Amazon marketplace. (And 100% reliable so far…unlike abe where too often I get sent the wrong books.) Just didn’t like the characters much. …Now Melissa and Ryder would have had a much more interesting relationship.