Monday, December 12, 2011

"Twice Kissed" by Lisa Jackson

Maggie McCrae has a tumultuous relationship with her twin sister Mary Theresa. Her sister now goes by the single-moniker name of Marquise and is a talk show host whose fame is slowly on the decline. When she receives a telepathic message from her sister stating that she is in danger, Maggie begins to worry. The worry is confirmed by the arrival of Thane Walker, Marquise's first husband - and Maggie's first true love. He says that Marquise is missing - possibly dead - and that the police suspect he had something to do with it. Despite not trusting him, Maggie agrees to pack her teenage brat of a daughter off to Los Angeles to stay with her aunt, and go with Thane to Denver to dig into Marquise's life to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

I know I vowed never to read another book by Lisa Jackson after the truly atrocious double-whammy of "Left To Die" and "Chosen To Die", but I happened to already own this (purchased at a sale quite cheaply), so I figured I had to get it out the way. While not nearly as awful as those previously mentioned books, it's still not very good. There is very little plot to speak of here, and all suspects are introduced so briefly that we don't get to know anything about them, so we don't really care if they had anything to do with Marquise's disappearance anyway. A fair amount of time is spent with Maggie's daughter Becca, but there's no point behind it. She's never in any danger and has no impact on the central mystery. She should have been packed off to Los Angeles and stayed there, not to be heard from for the rest of the book. That would have been nice, as she was quite an odious character.

The romance angle is typically overwrought and melodramatic, though at least partly believable. A lengthy flashback - that does nothing to illuminate the central mystery, mind you - shows how Maggie and Thane first fell in love, and the circumstances that broke them apart. Therefore, the tension between them in the present doesn't feel as forced as it might have done. You do have to wade through a lot of "I can't trust him/her!" to get to anything interesting, though. The explanation behind the mystery is very pat and silly, and the villian's motivation ill-defined at best. There is no way to figure out the answer to the mystery - the revelation is through a completely random plot development raised late in the book. Look at it this way - if converted into film/TV form, this would barely take up an hour-long television show. It's that thin. A look inside the book reveals this was originally published in 1998. Even more than a decade ago, Jackson was writing plotless drivel. This hasn't done much to sway me from my decision to no longer read her books.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The Stalker" by Joan Lowery Nixon

When Bobbie Trax is arrested for the murder of her own mother, nobody is more shocked than Bobbie's best friend, Jennifer Wilcox. She is convinced that Bobbie is innocent, despite the police claiming the case is closed. Despite being an immature, melodramatic pain-in-the-ass, she manages to convince ex-detective Lucas Maldonaldo of her theory, and they team up to find the real murderer. Of course, this puts Jennifer herself in the real killer's sights.

"The Stalker" came out in 1985, just a year before the teen thriller genre was revolutionised (for lack of a better term) by R.L. Stine with "Blind Date". It's scary to lay such claims on a mediocre author like Stine (although admittedly his output was a lot better before he was releasing four books a month), but his content was certainly edgier than what had come before it. There isn't much to be found within the pages of "The Stalker". The plot is very thin, the culprit identifiable the moment they are introduced and the main character is truly detestable. If I thought some of the wilting flowers found in romance novels were bad, Jennifer Wilcox really takes the cake. She's supposed to be eighteen years old, but spends most of her time complaining "It's not fair!" whenever something doesn't go her way. You almost expect her to cross her arms in front of her chest and stamp her feet. She snipes at everybody around her and generally behaves like a complete buffoon. Every moment spent in her company was a total chore. And since the whole story is told from her point of view (third person), it makes the whole, thankfully short, novel much the same. Avoid.