Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Cry Wolf" by Tami Hoag

Laurel Chandler is a prosecutor who has returned to her family home in the bayou after disastrously losing a child abuse case in which she pointed the finger at several big names. She reunites with her aunt Caroline and older sister Savannah, who is now a rampaging slut thanks to the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her stepfather when she and Laurel were young. Laurel was never subjected to any abuse, and still feels guilty for that fact all this time later. Although she wants to leave her lawyer past behind her, she unwittingly finds herself standing up for the Delahoussaye's, the owners of a bar that is being targeted by sham televangelist Jimmy Lee Baldwin, who decries it as a place of sin.

And what would a bayou tale be without a cliched gothic romance to go along with it all? Laurel falls for Jack Boudreaux, a former-lawyer-turned-horror-writer haunted by the suicide of his wife and subsequent death of their unborn child. He calls her many Cajun endearments whilst also declaring himself as somebody she can't rely on, despite popping up EVERY SINGLE TIME Laurel finds herself in even the smallest bit of bother. You'd think he was stalking her, but she just eats it up. Most of the time. Oh yeah, there's also a psycho lurking about strangling women and dumping their bodies, and the victims appear to be women with "loose morals". Uh oh. Could slutty Savannah be a target?

The back cover description of this plotless drivel concentrates mostly on the crime element of the women being strangled. I can tell you now that the strangler is barely even mentioned in the first 300 pages. The killer only seems to be included so that there can be an "exciting" ending, in which Laurel is abducted, stripped and molested. Otherwise, you would be VERY hard-pressed to call this a crime novel at all. Most of the 528 pages are devoted to Laurel and Jack as they talk, talk, talk and talk some more, and brood about their mutual haunted pasts. The revelation of the killer is pretty arbritrary and boring and there's no real motive given for his penchant for murdering "loose" women. "Cry Wolf" is an unmitigated bore with characters straight out of Romance-Cliche-Central that fails to entertain in any way whatsoever.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Close To You" by Mary Jane Clark

Eliza Blake is a popular news correspondent who has moved out of the city for a more steady lifestyle with her daughter. But instead of tranquility she finds terror - 140 people suddenly become obsessed with her! Actually, it's far less than that, but you get the drift. Problems begin when she is continually bothered by the previous owner of the new house she has just bought. Larson Richards won't give her the combination to the safe, inappropriately buys her daughter a puppy, and bugs her to invest in his latest venture to create a pizzeria franchise. On top of this, his parents - who lived in the house - died from a mysterious gas leak. Then there's Keith Chapel, one of her producers, who's coping with an unhappy pregnant life and dreams of starting an affair with Eliza. Abigail Snow is in charge of promos and is a stereotypically predatory lesbian also wanting to get down and dirty with the correspondent. Cornelius "Meat" Bacon is a bat-obsessed weirdo who thinks Eliza wears inappropriate attire for a news reporter. Jerry Wasilowski likes to spend his time making phone calls to her office and anonymously declaring his love. There's also Samuel Morton, whose daughter has recently died of cancer. Eliza tentatively responds to his overtures of romance after her lover, Mack McBride, cheats on her while on assignment in London. Intermingly with all this is August Sinisi, a car mechanic who is copying the keys of rich folk and breaking into their homes....

So Eliza has many obsessed admirers. But which one actually wants to kill her? The answer is slow in coming in this laboriously plotted thriller. The short chapters are a big advantage, making this one easy to read in nice bite-sized pieces. But the convoluted nature of Eliza conveniently having so many admirers at once drags this down - whose to say that once the story is over she isn't going to have another big bunch of pyschos declaring their love for her? The introduction of so many secondary characters is another negative factor - I resorted to writing all their names down so I could keep track of everybody - and it left little time for many of them to be adequately developed. "Close To You" is far from the worst suspense novel I've come across - the romance element is refreshingly low-key and not dwelt on too much. But don't go rushing to hunt it down.