Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Someone To Watch Over Me" by Judith McNaught

Leigh Manning is a Broadway star who is accidentally run off the road during a snowstorm while on the way to see her husband Logan for a romantic getaway at his new cabin. She barely escapes with her life. She wakes up in hospital with the news that her husband is missing.

As the search for him gets underway, Leigh finds her life continually invaded by business tycoon Michael Valente, a man she doesn't trust, yet is strangely drawn to. He has a mysterious, shady past and Leigh's conflicted feelings for him confuse her.

When it turns out that Logan has been murdered, Leigh and Michael both become suspects. A homicide team led by Lt. Mitchell McCord dig into their pasts in an effort to nail them. Meanwhile, Leigh and Michael's relationship gets more and more intimate.

"Someone To Watch Over Me" is perfectly acceptable on a potboiler level, but at 550 pages it is waaaaaay too long for the simple storyline it presents. I was amused by the description on the back that "Leigh herself digs into his (her husband) business affairs..." Um, she does nothing of the sort. By page 300, she's still sitting around crying and feeling sorry for herself. The homicide team do all the investigating here. Unfortunately, what we have here is yet another tiresome heroine who needs a swift kick in the backside in order to get her act together.

Maybe McNaught realised this too, and that is why there is suddenly the inclusion of a romance between no-nonsense Mitchell McCord and Det. Samantha Littleton, a member on his team, who is very new to the homicide department. Samantha is much more interesting than Leigh, and the author does a good job of demonstrating her quick wit and investigative intuition, and why a man like Mitch would be attracted to her. She is tough and take-charge, and can look after herself. None of these traits apply to Leigh, who is merely a boring wet blanket.

The male leads are typical alpha-males, though Valente does at least have a mildly interesting history and his antagonism towards the cops is well-developed. But, like any other book in this genre, neither character resembles anything from reality.

I was also mildly intrigued by the idea that the media would be fascinated by an actress who has only worked on Broadway, and never in Hollywood movies. I can't think of any Broadway actors or actresses who only appear in that medium who are household names of any sort. But to be honest, I know zip about Broadway or Broadway performers, so that was only a minor issue.

The main issue here is length. After a while I began to get bored. The murder mystery was not terribly complicated, despite the attention paid to the investigation into it. The final revelation of the killer almost feels like an afterthought, as if McNaught suddenly thought "Jeez! I'm 450 pages in, I better start wrapping this up!" The climax is clunky and not terribly exciting. If the author had whacked about 200 pages off this thing, it could have been a neat little time-passer, not the ludicrously drawn-out, thinly plotted romantic mystery it currently resembles.

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