Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Breaking Loose by Tara Janzen

This novel came out end of July 2009. Last Sunday I looked it up on and it had 2 reviews. One of them was Harriet's. That tells you all you need to know about this book. So you could stop reading here and now.

However. I bought the novel only after the disappointment of Dangerous Passion. And after all I was a Steele Street fan. So there's no stopping me...

The question is. Why did the Crazy series stop and the Loose series begin? At first I thought it was because the publishers thought the Steele Street guys were getting too old. They were all settling down, getting last count, Superman had 3 kids with Katya.

So a new generation of SDF had to be found. And they came along. Guys and gals. Nice enough. But all completely anonymous. I didn't really like the South American settings either.

So suddenly we got Loose and Easy, the Johnny Ramos story which was such a weird tale. What with it all taking place in one night. And in that night Esme and Johnny were supposed to fall in love forever! How could you have a Johnny Ramos story without a Skeeter appearance? Never mind the fact that every crazy character within 10 km of Denver did in fact manage to feature in the story. Including the local gangbangers (who turned out to be nice boys really...I personally have big objections to criminals being made out to be community leaders...though not from personal experience...just the idea of bullies running the neighbourhood makes me shudder.) Of course with all the characters that were pile-driven into the plot there was very little room for character development of the main couple or their relationship. But maybe that is just a style of writing. After all Creed and Cody's book could be said to be similar. Except that it wasn't because that was the story where Dylan first showed Skeeter his feelings about her. (So it could be said to be written in the Brockman style...another feature that was dropped with the Loose series.)

The point I am making is that Ramos was a character from the Steele Street series. So already the Loose series is backsliding. But at least Ramos was a young guy so at some level the polka-dot style of writing was understandable. And the JT thread made a reappearance.

So now we come to Breaking Loose. Featuring Suzi Toussi. Who is Superman's age, twice divorced but still supposedly hot. I have nothing against older heroines. But they fall in love in a different way to a 20 year old. That must be true. And an author has to portray that for a romance to work. Surely. It just doesn't happen here.

The main reason for reading this story is to follow the JT thread. And to see how it all pans out. I might join a fanfiction site and continue the series myself…featuring only the SDF crew. No Smith or Dax. I like Zach though. Probably not even Creed or Kid. I wasn’t much taken with their stories either. I liked Red Dog though. And Travis, her bitch. btw Whatever happened to Cheryl and Red Dog’s brother, Gabriel? I felt sure they were being set up for a story of their own.

There are quite a number of plots going on in this book.

Let’s see…

There is a tango sleeper cell in Texas. Erich Warner knows who they are and will give that information to the US government in exchange for a magical statue called the Memphis Sphinx.

Dax Killian is in Paraguay to get the Memphis Sphinx for Warner on behalf of one bunch of US government good guys.

Suzi Toussi is also in Paraguay to get the Memphis Sphinx for another bunch of US spies.

But. Another bunch of US spies actually sent the Memphis Sphinx to Paraguay to flush out a rogue US spy called Conroy Farrell.

Farrell wants to kill Erich Warner because Warner funds the development and manufacture of some very very nasty psychopharmological drugs…..

…the same drugs that were used on Dylan Hart and Farrell himself. And yes. Dylan Hart is in Paraguy, with the SDF team, with orders to kill Conroy Farrell….who is probably J T Chronopolous….GEEZ! That’s the guy Superman named his first born son for.

Actually. My first Steele Street novel was Dylan’s story, Crazy Love, which was publicized as Skeeter’s story. At the time I originally read the book I thought it was a bit ick that the first time Skeet and Dylan got down to business he was actually spaced out on those nasty psychopharmalogical drugs. But I suppose without those drugs he would never have made any moves on Skeeter. I thought it was also a bit weird how Dylan kept going on about the age difference between him and Skeeter when she was about 21 and he was about 33. I figure that she was maybe originally written younger and the publishers changed her age up.

Anyway. I never thought then that those drugs were an ongoing thread. Says a lot for Dylan’s head strength that he was able to work his way out of drug dependence. Without much character change other that he allowed himself to fall in love. Because everyone else who has had those drugs had become completely changed in a totally murderous manner….J.T and Shoko step forward.

Who would have thought the J.T thread would turn so dark? Who would have thought Dylan’s experiences with Dr Souk in Indonesia would have an ending in Paraguay. ‘The world is indeed a village’ as Hillary once said.

I have read so much dnf dross recently. Maybe that’s why the story captured my interest. Also I knew where all the threads were coming from. Because I have read every single book in the series! However in the end I refrained from getting too excited because I suspected the ending would probably disappoint.

Thinking about the plot. I have no idea why anyone with any brains would send Suzi Tousi into a situation like that. The problem with having a heroine like Suzi is that the publisher will say ‘Oh but we must have a young person in the story.’ And so a completely irrelevant teen character is introduced. And we get detail about her back story, her looks, her attitude….all of it completely irrelevant to the story. We get the waste of space called Scout. When really the reader might want more of Suzi and Dax developing a relationship. Or in my case, more of Dylan and the SDF crew.

There’s nothing wrong with Suzi. She’s just not that interesting. That’s mainly because she and Dax don’t have enough pages…in their own book! Skeeter and Dylan were all over Crazy Love. No way could Suzi be an agent. She falls apart on viewing a dead body. Her only strategy to get info from a guy is to dress like a cheap hooker.

If I had written this story. I’d leave out Ponce, Jimmy Ruiz, the shakedown cops…the author is often putting in too many people in her novels. I understand that South America is full of very strange people…I don’t necessarily want to read about them all in the one novel. All I know about Paraguay is that this is the country that scared Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell when they were filming Miami Vice. And how many countries are there that don’t worship Hollywood movie stars? It’s the sort of place where women with independent attitude probably get kidnapped off the street in broad daylight. Suzi Toussi wouldn’t last one single minute in that place really.

I actually enjoy the simplicity of romances. One guy, one girl. And mostly told from the girl’s point of view. None of that here. This novel is told from nearly every characters pov. My poor brain can’t hardly keep track. And of course. Not enough Suzi and Dax. I'd have liked to have known more about how the death of Suzi's little girl precipitated her into risking her life for strangers. Suzi did have an interesting was just left favour of endless uninteresting insights into the minds of people who appeared for only about 2 pages. (That just reminded me of how much I enjoyed Zach’s incredibly implausible story.) And as always there is so much time wasting running around for nothing. The reader is told quite early on that Con has the Sphinx. So why waste whole chapters on Suzi and Dax finding out for themselves the Sphinx is no longer at Berenger’s. I hate it when denouement action has to unfold in one single end chapter leaving no room for thread tie-ups. And I still didn’t see why twice-divorced Suzi fell for never-before-married Dax. Without even asking him if he swings both ways. (See what I mean about how older women behave?)

As always recently. The plot goes round and round in circles. Suzi and Dax looking for the Sphinx. And I realise that the book is just running out of pages. There just isn’t enough room for Warner to get killed by Con, for Shoko to get off her pills, for Suzi to get the Sphinx, or for its magic to be demonstrated. The Texas tango thread has also disappeared. The paranormal thread just peters out. It should have been edited out. Nothing explains why Warner wants to own the Sphinx. (Nothing that makes sense anyway.)

It’s stupid to give up reading a 400-page book at page 300. But I felt seriously tempted. Nothing was happening. There was no progression. The main couple were still looking for the statuette same as they were on page 40. And they’d only kissed once.

Another thread from Steele Street is how much they were into their weapons. I loved all that. Totally absent from Breaking Loose of course. Suddenly no-one's worried about america being destroyed by terrorist groups anymore. Is that down to the passage of time or have all those lost lives really done some good?

Anyone who's managed to read through my rambling review might as well read the book itself. Just to show solidarity with a working author.

And you know what else. From what I read of JT, I didn't like him either.

Having done nothing but complain and reminisce I wish to state that I will be reading the next book. Basically any mention of Dylan, Superman et al will keep this poor sap tapping out the numbers on her debit card. Can't blame ol' Suzi for trying hard.

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