Flatiron Books | 2019
Filed Under: Pool cues and brass knuckles
I was committed and ready, and completely open, to falling head over heels in love with Nikki Griffin, bookseller and badass P.I. with some serious anger issues.
But, unfortunately, this didn’t totally live up to everything I wanted it to be. Call it a victim of my high expectations if you want, but I found this to be a just okay, middle-of-the-road thriller.
The star highlight for me is the main character of Nikki Griffin. I think she was complicated but real. She came with a dark backstory and a closed-off, tough-as-nails personality that didn’t slip away the moment she met a guy. For being a novel written by a man, I was pleased to find she didn’t talk about how her nipples felt or looked at any moment, since that seems to be a thing male writers are typically preoccupied with when writing female leads. Any comments that she made about her body seemed to me to be in relation to men looking at her and their sexual thoughts, and were less about sexually describing herself.
The way Nikki is introduced is pretty canon the whole way through the novel. She likes privacy, but she’s not dead inside. She keeps things close to the chest, but isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with the people she trusts. She’s strong, smart and professionally violent. All things I probably am, but just way less cool about it. Like, I daydream about breaking a man’s arm for hitting a woman, but really I just eat cookies about it.
To satisfy the side of herself that longs for justice and appropriate karma, Nikki has found an outlet as a PI who catches dirty men doing bad things and teaches them a lesson when she can. She’s a little bit like a superhero, but with fewer capes and more kicks to the nuts to domestic abusers. It’s fun and satisfying, and as a woman who has been through domestic violence, it got me hyped. Like, yeah KNOCK HIS FUCKING TEETH IN!
You know, totally regular emotional reactions.
Things started to get a little if-y for me when the bulk of the storyline was introduced. A Silicon Valley CEO hires Nikki to follow an employee whom he suspects of selling proprietary company secrets to competitors.
I felt like we left behind the badass, dark and karma-centric aspect of the story that I was really digging, to spend time with characters who didn’t seem to fit with the tone and over-arching theme of the story – that Nikki is a conflicted, guilt-plagued superhero for battered women and her brother.
Instead, she was getting into mob-esque danger with smarmy goons and trying to teach the reader about international espionage-ish technology that required way too much page time to explain. There was even a straight-up bad guy monologue scene. “Do you want to know all my reasons for doing what I did, instead of having naturally figured them out during the investigation? LET ME MONOLOGUE… before I kill you. We got time!”
It was a strange direction to go and ended up feeling convoluted. Possible? SURE. Everything is possible nowadays. But an odd direction to take a story about a lowkey PI and booknerd? Completely.
Maybe if we were three books deep into a series, and needed to go a different direction to spice things up, I could see the reason for the plot direction, but really I was a bit disappointed in how we went from a violent, girl-powered story to one about guys in suits doing shitty things for international political reasons.
If you like subterfuge and tough female leads this might be a 5-star read for you, but I didn’t totally connect with the direction of the storyline. The writing is good, and the character-building is on-pointe, but the “thriller” parts of the story – which were the bulk of it – were a little out there and felt like jamming the wrong puzzle piece into an empty space.
Nikki Griffin isn’t your typical private investigator. In her office above her bookstore’s shelves and stacks, where she luxuriates in books and the comfort they provide, she also tracks certain men. Dangerous men. Men who have hurt the women they claim to love. And Nikki likes to teach those men a lesson, to teach them what it feels like to be hurt and helpless, so she can be sure that their victims are safe from them forever.
When a regular PI job tailing Karen, a tech company’s disgruntled employee who might be selling secrets, turns ugly and Karen’s life is threatened, Nikki has to break cover and intervene. Karen tells Nikki that there are people after her. Dangerous men. She says she’ll tell Nikki what’s really going on. But then something goes wrong, and suddenly Nikki is no longer just solving a case—she’s trying hard to stay alive.
Part Lisbeth Salander, part Jack Reacher, part Jessica Jones, Nikki Griffin is a kickass character who readers will root for as she seeks to right the world’s wrongs. S.A. Lelchuk’s Save Me From Dangerous Men marks the beginning of a gripping new series and the launch of a fabulous new character.