To Go: 61
31. The Dressmaker — Kate Alcott
32. Spin — Catherine McKenzie
33. The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Muriel Barbery
34. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
35. A Necessary End — Peter Robinson
36. Envy — Sandra Brown
37. The Preacher — Camilla Läckberg
38. Hidden — Catherine McKenzie
39. Ricochet — Sandra Brown
Finished reading: July 13, 2013
In the same spur-of-the-moment spending spree that led me to purchase Envy, I also bought Ricochet and one other Sandra Brown book. What can I say? I was looking for uncomplicated reading, and Brown fit the bill. Unfortunately, both Envy and Ricochet showed me that her older work just isn’t as good as her newer novels (Lethal and Low Pressure).
When Savannah detective Duncan Hatcher is summoned to influential judge Cato Laird’s home in the early hours of the morning, he finds an unusual crime scene. The judge’s wife, Elise, has fatally shot a burglar, and is claiming self defense. But clues at the crime scene suggest she’s being less than truthful so Duncan investigates further, putting his career in jeopardy. When Elise makes a startling allegation in private, Duncan dismisses it as a lie designed to distract him from the investigation. But when, days later, Elise goes missing and is presumed dead, Duncan realizes he may have made a terrible mistake.
Ricochet is, like Envy, a case of a good idea being poorly executed. The plot itself is well thought out and smartly paced: Brown knows when to reveal and when to hold back. But the detective leading me through the mystery was hard to stomach. And while I believe unlikeable main characters have their place in fiction, I don’t think Duncan Hatcher was supposed to be unlikeable—and therein lies the execution problem. He was supposed to be relatable, and he wasn’t. At all.
Duncan Hatcher and his partner, DeeDee, are initially presented as fair-minded, intelligent detectives (albeit, with some temper). But when it comes to Elise Laird and the supposed burglary-gone-wrong, neither of them can set aside their prejudices to conduct a truly fair investigation. DeeDee is envious of Elise’s looks and station, but disguises it as contempt for an alleged liar (though, despite all their hunches about the burglary, neither she nor Duncan can actually come up with concrete evidence to suggest Elise is being anything but truthful). And Duncan’s attracted to Elise, and angry at her husband, so to mask his own failings at objectivity he regards her with sexist disdain, assuming that she’s exploiting his attraction to her to prevent him from examining the crime. Not to mention that when Elise comes to him, thinking she can trust him with allegations of a threat on her life, Duncan blows her off, putting a woman’s life in jeopardy to protect his pride.
Detectives who don’t always play by the books—and, occasionally, go full-on rogue in the name of justice—come with the territory of writing a crime fiction novel. But Duncan and DeeDee are just too much. They’re terribly unappealing characters. And while Brown is able to mostly turn them both around by the end of the book, making Duncan and DeeDee if not likeable, at least tolerable, the two of them leave a bad taste in my mouth. I know I was supposed to be happy to see Elise end up with Duncan in the end. But I just kept hoping she would run for the hills.
Not exactly the reaction you’re hoping for at the end of a mystery-romance novel.
Next book: Sea Swept — Nora Roberts
P.S.: Shortly after reading Ricochet, I found out that it had been adapted to a made-for-TV movie. So, of course, I had to watch it. And I actually thought I might die of laughter sometime throughout the movie. John Corbett, the ultimate nice-guy actor, is so horribly miscast as a “rogue” detective: his idea of being edgy was yelling all of his dialogue, which—trust me—did not help. It was unintentionally hilarious, though.