Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"The Venus Fix" by M.J. Rose

Dr. Morgan Snow is a sex therapist with a 13-year-old actress daughter on Broadway, and a strained romantic relationship with Det. Noah Jordain. He's currently investigating the murders of web-cam girls - they are being poisoned while performing live on-line. It seems their killer taints stuff like oils and lubricants, posts them to the girls as a "fan" and asks them to use it. It does lead to one memorable sequence - a kinky lesbian sex scene that ends in the girls vomiting uncontrollably. There's still some originality left in fiction, folks! Anyway, Morgan herself is treating a patient who only likes to refer to himself as "Bob". It turns out he's a prolific judge with an addiction to on-line porn - and a connection to the girls who are dying. She's also counselling a group of teenagers with on-line porn problems, and a couple of them may also have links to the dead girls.

While that purports to be the plot, most of the book dwells on Morgan's stress over her daughter wanting a television career in Hollywood. Morgan's own mother was a child star whose career crashed once she was a teenager, and she eventually died of a drug-overdose. Morgan doesn't want this for her own daughter, and even contemplates moving back in with her ex-husband to provide a more stable home-life for her daughter. This is turn leads to further tensions with her detective lover. All of this tiresome melodrama detracts from what could have been a very entertaining, trashy thriller. As it is, all the story threads come together really well at the end, something of a rarity these days, it seems. The last third was fast-paced and exciting, with a surprise killer with a thoughtful and believable motive and a solid climax. If they'd excised all the personal problems Morgan is going through, there wouldn't be much of a book left, but the thriller aspects deliver the goods admirably.

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