Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Pop Goes The Weasel" by M.J. Arlidge

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is still haunted by the events of the previous book "Eeny Meeny", in which she had to shoot dead her serial killer sister. Now she's head of a new investigation, as men are turning up murdered, with their hearts removed, and the hearts later delivered to either their home or work. It is soon established that the men all visited prostitutes, so the team must figure out if they have a violent, vigilante prostitute on their hands.

Meanwhile, Helen must face off against a new chief who (of course) wants her head on a platter, and a journalist who has some sort of bizarre obsession with bringing her down. She is also following around a young man named Robert Stonehill, determined to keep watch over him.

I read "Eeny Meeny" and thought it was cliched and silly. It was gross just for the sake of it, and came with a ridiculous Cop-With-A-Haunted-Past subplot that resulted in one of the stupidest twists I've come across in a while. Quite similar, in fact, to "Taboo" by Casey Hill, even further rendering it unoriginal. It also had the distinction of giving us a heroine who enjoyed participating in S&M as a way to release tension and escape demons. Yes, really.

Most books end with some sort of hope on the horizon for its main character, along with personal growth etc. "Eeny Meeny" was no exception. I can't say I was terribly surprised that Helen Grace had regressed entirely by the start of this second book, but I was still disappointed. She's still going to see Jake, her "dom", and getting whipped whenever the stress gets to be too much, despite the first book suggesting she was ready to move on from this.

Sorry, I just can't get on board with the main character being into S&M. It's such an obvious, see-through ploy to try and make our heroine tough and gritty, when it's simply not needed. The fact that Helen had not grown at all since "Eeny Meeny" and we were once again back to this ridiculous subplot started this book on the negative.

Not much improved from there. Although the James Patterson-style short chapters enable faster reading, it can't hide the pointless extraneous material. We get lots of chapters that simply don't need to be there. Points of view from characters who are largely superfluous to the plot. In particular, we get a chapter from an unnamed "thief" as he breaks into a tenement. We already know his only point of existence is to find a dead body - except he doesn't. He opens the door to the room where the body is, and that's where the chapter ends.

The person-who-finds-a-dead-body trope is one I can't stand, and this is a particularly asinine example of it.


Cliches fly thick and fast from there. Helen has a new boss, who also happens to be out for glory and has a grudge against Helen. Her reason? I think simply because she can.

And if Helen's misery wasn't enough, we learn the sad backstory of her colleague Tony Bridges, whose young wife is confined to bed thanks to locked-in syndrome after a stroke.

Arlidge just lays it all on so thick.

While this isn't as ridiculous as "Eeny Meeny", it's all rather flat and boring. Lots of internal angst amongst the main characters - and a few minor ones as well - but not enough twists and turns in the plot. Much like the first novel, Helen conveniently notices an important fact, and our killer is uncovered. I'm not sure I get her reasoning, either. She figures it out because the first heart was delivered to the family, and the other hearts were delivered to work. No, not quite. Simon Brooks' heart was delivered personally to his own poor son. So the book doesn't even have its own internal logic.

The less said about the journalist subplot the better. It irked me from start to finish.

Why did I read this? Well, it was on special offer on Kindle, and I'd already read the first one, and thought this might be a step up.

Sigh. I never learn. Maybe that's why the characters in these books never do, either.

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