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.

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