Self-Published | 2017
Opening Hook: Vague and underwhelming
Main Character: Way too focussed on the tingles in her hoo-ha
Plot Twisty-ness: A disconnected jumping of the shark
This book was super frustrating for me because it has the bones of something that could have been really, really good. But the execution was off; the focus was not on the right things so choices in the plot felt clunky, and out of place.
Set in New Orleans, I was desperately seeking to be overwhelmed with that atmosphere. To feel the weather, to hear the culture, to have the architectural city streets at the forefront of the scene creation. But it never came. The author brought in some Voodoo elements, but it didn’t fit with the rest of the book. Either go full New Orleans – dark and magical and historic – a Skeleton Key tone; or follow the erotic, police procedural lane that 75% of the book was in – a Double Jeopardy tone. The two didn’t mesh well.
Honestly, I would have totally preferred a dark and magical New Orleans thriller, with voodoo and a sexually deviant serial killer. Like I said, the bones were there and it should have hit the gas in that lane instead of coasting in and out of the lines.
It just never came together the way it should. It didn’t feel like it knew what it wanted to be, hence the “clunky”.
Someone who I’ve always felt does New Orleans in a way that brings it’s uniqueness to life, is Tami Hoag. She even puts a dictionary in the back to translate all the French-Cajun that she uses. Not saying that all Louisiana settings have to be that intense, but at the very least it shouldn’t feel flat. New Orleans has a vibe, and we should feel that vibe. But this was vibeless and flat.
In terms of plotting, the transitions and events that I thought should have been more important, or highlighted within the plot, were too blunt and then quickly discarded. A woman kills herself, a paramedic is killed, there is an active serial killer stalking the city — but these things were given next to no attention, instead favouring relationships and sexual scenes and personal growth that was completely sex-focused.
And that’s one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to male authors writing female leads.
It goes something like this: someone is murdered, but the female main character spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about her nipples or how her breasts feel today. Or, there is an important lead to be followed that should require a measured, professional response, but the main character would rather spend her time on a date, contemplating her tingling vagina.
I cannot stress this enough to male writers: This is not how women behave or think, and you do us a disservice by creating female characters who are primarily sexually obsessive instead of full, whole people with a hundred other things on their minds that has nothing to do with the dicks in the room. Even if the main character is an inexperienced 24-year-old who just wants to fuck someone for once – that storyline is better suited to a teen comedy or a Pornhub feature. Not crime fiction.
If you’re going to write an erotic novel, totally fine. But if you’re trying to create a police procedural with a strong female lead, stop talking about what’s happening between her legs every time a male character smiles at her.
That said, I completely understand that the storyline and the main character’s personal evolution relied heavily on sexual themes related to childhood molestation. This can be powerful and poignant when done the right way. But here, the way it was explored crossed the line into virgin-fantasy porn far too often for my liking.
“No! Don’t stick your finger in there, I’m a virgin!” is basically a comment made by the Violet at one point.
There is a way to create a strong female lead who has familial issues and childhood trauma without her getting a hand-job in a restaurant by a “sex therapist” who has convinced her that the only way through her trauma was for him to play with her pussy.
….annnnnnnnnnndddddd that’s where the plot lost me.
There was no flow between events or time taken to deepen relationships and explore the actual events that were, technically, giving the story a reason to exist. The bigger moments were told to us briefly in a “oh by the way someone else was murdered” kind of way, instead of shown and experienced firsthand. This resulted in a lack of red herrings and clues, leaving very little room for the reader to figure out the mystery aspect.
You learn almost zero information about “The Rodeo Killer.” It didn’t need to be a constant focus, but it did need to be something experienced at least occasionally (maybe a conversation in front of murder wall where we learn about the victims and the killer’s profile) because it was very important to the conclusion.
As the reader, I should have felt that sinister presence in the streets of New Orleans, even as Violet’s attention was on other things that seemingly weren’t connected.
It’s a matter of atmosphere and suspense building, so that in the end, as pieces fell into place for Violet’s revelations we are shocked, instead of confused, which is what I was.
I’m not reading mystery-thriller-crime fiction for Hemingway style prose and emotional eloquence. I’m here for the dead bodies; the horror and the extraordinary circumstances. But these things still need to follow a sense of logic. I was missing that here when it came to Violet’s involvement with the case and that left me thinking “what wait?” Taking me out of the story, instead of getting lost in it. Again, confused.
Like, why would a police officer who had such a glaring conflict of interest, as was the case with Violet, still be able to be apart of the case?
Moreover, why would she then betray the investigation and her colleagues by revealing all their “I’m wearing a wire” plans to the main suspect (her sex-happy therapist who she was inexplicably loyal to after knowing him for like half a minute)?
Why was she still allowed to be in on the investigation even after that?
If you’re going to create a story within the world of police, which is law and order, then your story should follow laws and have order. Create a plot that works within those rules, don’t bend them in order to get where you want to go. It’s lazy plotting.
That being said, this isn’t a bad book, and the prose themselves are good.
I’m positive the casual reader of the genre would enjoy it. But I’m a little bit more discerning when it comes to what I read.
It kind of sucks when I can see the potential in a story but it just never goes where I think it could to be a more top-notch read. It’s like watching your team attempt to score, but miss. I’m thinking “come on!” and feeling let down. That happened every time a scene was written where Violet was contemplating her breasts instead of showing up a crime scene and getting down in the gritty, dark aspects that were on the outer edges of the novel.
Officer Violet Babineaux is called to the scene of a suicide where she finds her childhood friend Charlotte Labarre lying on a blood-soaked couch with a gun in her hand. Violet believes she could have prevented her suicide with a simple call. While placed on administrative leave, guilt drives her to investigate on her own, starting with Psychology Professor Daniel Russo who had an inappropriate relationship with Charlotte, his student. Violet portrays a vulnerable facade to entice his interest, however she falls for his charms. And Dr. Russo’s news of Charlotte’s secret diary threatens to blow the case wide open.
Unsure about Dr. Russo’s involvement, Violet presents a bold conspiracy theory involving cops to her partner Lenny Blake, but he and Homicide Detective Walter Wild dismiss her despite the evidence. When Violet finally acquires an elusive piece to the puzzle, the answers are far worse than not knowing.
book source: the author, E.J. Findorff, in exchange for a review.