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Although many argue that there’s a lack of women authors acknowledged in the literary world, I’m consistently surprised, impressed and intrigued by the women protagonists kicking ass in the mystery and thriller genre, written well by authors of both genders.
From the talented hand of Sue Grafton, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has had many bestselling mysteries and is starring in Grafton’s 21st, U IS FOR UNDERTOW out 12/1/09. There’s also V.I. Warshawski written by Sara Paretsky, the Women’s Murder Club series from James Patterson, and I’ve also discovered many strong female characters on both sides of the law in John Sandford’s titles. I’ve found the mystery genre is especially generous with women in important roles (CERTAIN PREY, my favorite Sandford title, features a hit-woman) instead of simply being the victim.
One of the most iconic and recognizable female characters is Kay Scarpetta, penned by the renowned Patricia Cornwell. Cornwell’s latest, THE SCARPETTA FACTOR, hit the NYT bestseller at #2 (behind only Dan Brown). For those rare readers unfamiliar with the series I urge you to give them a try (and I have found they’re not necessary to read in order); not only are they tantalizing and smart mysteries but you’ll want to be ahead of the media storm when, drumroll please, Angelina Jolie appears on the big screen as Kay Scarpetta (watch Cornwell share this information on Good Morning America).
Because I enjoy Scarpetta’s character, when shopping for a new mystery I found the following quote from James Patterson:
“Karen Vail is as compelling a character as any created by Patricia Cornwell, or yours truly…”
I bit it hook, line and sinker and proudly walked away from the register clutching THE 7th VICTIM by Alan Jacobson in my hands.
Some may say my standards were set too high by the Cornwell quote, but whatever the reason my disappointment was genuine. Karen Vail is supposedly a profiler (comparable to Benton), so I find it either too far fetched, or just doubt her skills, that she would be completely clueless as to the background of her own immediate family. Additionally, I understand we as readers are supposed to connect with “flawed characters” – but she was too unrelatable.
Also, I enjoy mysteries with some clues to keep the pages turning and not just assumptions, hints and lucky guessing. This book offered very little to the reader by way of the serial killings taking place and seemed to focus much more on the personal life and happenings of Karen Vail.
Bottom Line: Scarpetta gets a blackberry in her latest, and while SCARPETTA FACTOR may not be my favorite Cornwell title, it’s worth reading. While I suggest avoiding THE 7TH VICTIM for reading purposes, I think the book is very high quality as it’s been keeping my big heavy window open for the last three weeks with hardly a divet in the board of this repurposed hardcover.
**Mark your calendars to join me this Tuesday, November 24, as I guest blog about mysteries (and working on some of the biggest names in the genre) on Meritious Mysteries! **
My booklist has taken an R-rated twist
I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill. Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!). Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.
Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.
For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit. He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly. I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular. If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
- Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
- Author: Tucker Max
- Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)
On-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody. Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota. The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill. This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things. Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
- Author: Diablo Cody
- Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)
Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged. Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).
Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane. The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact. Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
- Title: Striptease
- Author: Carl Hiaasen
- Publisher: Vision
Sometimes the life of a drug lord seems a little like the mob – dangerous and violent, but sexy in that easy-money sort of way. I don’t have the heart for it – I can’t take the pictures of the starving children in Africa that come up on those religious commercials, much less personally contributing to addicts (is that a logical chain of thought?). Not to mention drugs, weapons and police scare me… But they do make for a good story, as long as the violence and danger stay on the page, unlike the Mexican Cartels currently doing their best to wreak havoc in the States…
Elizabeth Lowell had no idea how current her fictional novel, The Wrong Hostage, would seem right now, with news outlets daily covering the influx of drugs and violence from Mexico and the issues going on within the drug world down there.
Published as the second book within her “St. Kilda” series (of which I’ve
never read the first), The Wrong Hostage takes place during a harrowing weekend in which California Judge Grace Silva is forced to go toe-to-toe with the feared Mexican drug lord, Hector Rivas Osuna, in order to rescue her 15-year-old son. Held hostage against money Silva’s ex-husband owes, she takes action. Instead of wasting time in tracking down her lousy ex, missing for weeks, she calls the super-secret St. Kilda firm, known only to her due to a brief, passionate love affair with an operative… If you’re a fan of the “Romantic Suspense” genre, I bet you can guess this operative is also, ta-da, the son’s real father.
Through scary roads in Mexico, being witness to cold-hearted murder within the drug community (reminiscent of the Chicago Mob: https://novelwhore.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/operation-gambat-when-corruption-was-king-of-chicago/) and all the while reigniting long-lost passion, this is a fast-paced novel that leaves your heart in your throat as you just wish the family to be reunited, frolicking on a white-sand beach and off the drug-ridden streets of Tijuana.
Crazily enough, I read this novel last year and as quickly as I finished the last page it left my thoughts, just to spring to mind as I was reading The New York Times two days ago: “More than 7,000 people [in Mexico], most of them connected to the drug trade or law enforcement, have died since January 2008. Many of the victims were tortured. Beheadings have become common.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&em.
There are numerous additional articles covering home invasions and kidnappings in the United States, all related to the Mexican drug trade, making me wonder if a situation like Lowell portrayed in The Wrong Hostage happened to an ordinary family unconnected with underground, all-powerful rescue rings (do these even exist in real life?), what would happen? Would the news even be publicized, or would one family be in unbearable private pain?
It’s scary when what I would consider to be outlandish fiction comes alive in the newspaper. While I enjoyed reading this book throughout its 406 pages, I don’t like the reading of individual newspaper articles that don’t always have the same caliber of ending (trying not to give anything aware, being sly).
Give this book a try if you like action, suspense, guns and violence with an undercurrent of sexual tension, but skip it if you would rather not take a behind-the-scenes peek at what may be happening as we speak.
And I even love Mexico – Cancun vacation, anyone!?
- NovelWhore’s Grade: B
- Title: The Wrong Hostage
- Author: Elizabeth Lowell
- Publisher: Avon