Sunday, March 26, 2006

Most Wanted

Yesterday I finished the highly recommended (by afficionados of the genre) Most Wanted by Michelle Martinez -- it is one of those books that can be read in a few hours. It isn't bad: the angle is "prosecutor with straying husband and six-month baby" while dealing with violent crime, paranoia about trustworthiness of investigating team, and a hard-nosed female boss playing politics while compromised by a personal involvement. So far, so good: a mixture of enough angles, even if individually cliched, can be heady if well-combined. However, the book ain't that great. The identity of the bad penny in the investigation is immediately obvious, removing one big chunk of dramatic tension at the outset and meaning that the heroine has to be obtuse in some situations (where she'd guess the identity of this person if she took a particular logical step) whereas able to make brilliant deductive leaps in others. The "baby/babysitter" subplot is also unrealistic in the same way -- sometimes the heroine is excessively anxious about her childcare, other times she seems to have forgotten that the baby is there. The writing just isn't good enough to sustain reader interest (John Grisham, for example, has weak plots that just don't hang together, but his writing carries you through) . Yet there are some good points, and the book is left with a triangular dilemma that has scope for interesting developments in future books. It just depends on whether the writer evolves (Most Wanted seems to be her first book). I might give the second in the series, The Finishing School, a try when it is available in paperback on Amazon UK, but it won't be highest priority on my list. On the cover of Most Wanted are enthusiastic quotes from Iris Johansen and Tess Gerritson. Given the number of times I read blurbs from these authors, I wonder if they have taken a leaf from the excellent book of David Montgomery, who is now producing a "blurb machine" (great idea!) on his blog Crime Fiction Dossier.