Book reviews: Profiling, Hollywood, and Baby Animals

“Did you just call them chicks?”
“Yep, that’s how they act. In contrast to you, who’s a woman.”
“You should teach classes!”
“Then I wouldn’t be special.”

Terminal Consent
An interesting and original premise to this dark mystery: why would a woman let herself be used over and over, despite pain and humiliation?
The protagonist is a former Special Forces operator who was falsely convicted of a crime and just released from jail. Heading to his old hometown, where he tries to drink himself to death, he gets a job as a bouncer at a sex club, where he surprisingly runs into his former cellmate, an elite hacker who wants revenge for a beating he assumed the main character ordered. Instead they team up to help one of the club’s female workers, which leads them to places they could have never imagined.
Despite the setting being an S&M club—which could have led to some hilarious moments—there’s hardly anything there, though in fairness there’s a few plot points that hinge on it. The plot gets a little convoluted, but never so bad you can’t follow along. It’s the writing that’s the best part, the way the characters are drawn, mostly through their interactions. Everyone develops quite nicely once the erroneous conclusions are corrected. I was hoping for more from the club owner, but it’s very possible she’ll get further screen time—so to speak—if there’s any sequels, which I figure there will be. The legacy of O Henry makes an appearance to resolve the plot, a well-crafted turn that brings everything, especially my question at the beginning, into perfect relief.

The Ripper Gene
It’s a treat when someone who is at the top of their field, particularly in the sciences, writes a piece of fiction set in their world of expertise. In this case it’s both neuroscience, particularly DNA, and profiling, leading to an entertaining story of the hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Of course a lot of the main character is taken from the author himself, but this is no Marty Sue; his flaws and tragedies keep it from being a simple paean of self-adulation. In the bio he speaks about an incident on Halloween as a kid that, while nothing happened in real life, is used to launch the story here. There are small touches that tell me this is a first-time novelist, but nothing serious, and by midway they’re gone, so it’s pretty smooth reading except for the occasional uber-scientific ramble. At times the descriptions are a little lacking—the run through the high school football stadium is my prime example—but the interplay between the two lead profilers is scintillating, as well as giving me yet another strong tough female character to fall in love with. Minor characters abound, especially in the FBI office, and while their specialties are fascinating, I can’t help but wonder if the actual personas are based on real people, and whether some of them will be. . . let’s say annoyed by the portrayal.
Now if only Stephen Hawking would write a sci-fi novel. . .

Picture Perfect
This is one of those novels with two storylines, one in the present and the other in the past, where the point for the reader is to figure out how they’re gonna meet before you get to the end. . . while enjoying the story, of course.
In the prologue a teen sells her baby. Then we move to present-day Hollywood, where an agent to the stars wants to move into the producing field, specifically filming a book that she claims changed her life. Her best friend is a famous actress who’s getting a little too old for major roles, to her chagrin, and is tasked with author-sitting the guy who wrote the book in question, not an easy job with any writer but even more so here.
And then something startling happens: in addition to the movie business and the flashbacks, this turns into a love story, or rather three of them. I thought this book would be all Hollywood, but there are plenty of touching and sweet moments. The characters are fantastic, especially the two ladies who have had each other’s backs for years. The younger woman who enters their lives is also fun, though her moments of crippling self-doubt are a bit painful to muddle through. And of course there has to be at least one bad guy—any superstar Aussies come to mind?—though in the end he gets his character development and reconciles with his son. And who doesn’t love a dog who pines for his master, even after death?
As often happens in books set in Los Angeles, I tend to squee at the smallest coincidences; it might be a subway ride or a restaurant I love, but in this case it’s a mention of the UCLA library, which I was in the day I read that section. As for the writing, once in a while a Britishism comes out and makes things a little jarring, especially with the Suthin’ characters in Hollywood, but other than that there’s plenty to like here. Everybody gets a happy ending and we’ve got an obvious setup for a sequel, but as the cliché goes, it’s the journey, not the destination.

Cute Continent Cuddle
I kinda object to this being called a book; even with the fact that most of the pages are taken up by photos, it’s still incredibly short, possibly too little to even call a novella. Even when reading it to kids, which is no doubt the audience this was intended for, I suspect it would take no more than ten minutes, as it is nothing more than rhyming couplets—some painfully forced—with photos of baby animals. Of course a kid, the younger the better, wouldn’t care about the words and would simply stare in delight at the cuteness overload, there’s no way I can put myself in that frame of mind for the review, so as an adult I have to say this could have been better, as well as longer.


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