Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Bit of a Mish-mash

A genre that embraces 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'The Ladies' Number One Detectve Agency' offers something for every taste. Getting to know some new varieties is one reason I go to my local library's crime reading group .

Unfortunately, the book up for discussion at last month was a bit of a mish-mash - J. D. Robb's 'Naked in Death'.

The title was pretty accurate - a serial killer in America is bumping off prostitutes after removing their clothes.

Trouble is, the victims aren't the only ones getting their kit off. Police detective Eve Dallas gets naked, too, when she falls for smouldering sophisticate Roarke. So far so Joan Collins. Some, me included, might suspect she's letting her hormones get the better of her and doubt her credentials for getting the job done. Especially when he's a prime suspect.

While some members liked the steamy sex in this police procedural, others thought it slowed down the plot. Is it a crime thriller or a romance?

If that's not enough, there's a futuristic twist - the story's set in the in the year 2058, an aspect that's signalled on page 3 when the shower and the toaster respond to voice commands, more James Bond than Asimov. But the science-fiction aspect seems mainly a device to provide wealthy Roarke with a room full of state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. The side-benefit for Eve is she can can keep an eye on her possibly bent superiors.

Prostitutes, renamed 'Licenced Companions, are legalised and paying taxes. Nothing so strange in that, perhaps, but the killer's 'gimmick' is to shoot them with outdated weapons - guns. It means he has access to a collection of vintage collectors' items. Hence Roarke, a gun coonnoisseur with no alibi, is in the frame. As is Eve's taste. Call me a namby pamby pacifist, but a hero who's also a gun-fetishist, even if he didn't remind me of Batman, is a real turn-off.

Only one member of the crime reading group felt intrigued enough to read the next book in the series, which she felt gave much more space to the plot and less to the passionate pair, although the relationship between Eve and Roarke continues. With romance in the background, the formula would work better for me. 'Naked in Death' was an uncomfortable and distracting mixture .

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