Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TBR Challenge 2011: Stupid Girl

The BookOfficer Down by Theresa Schwegel

The Particulars: Mystery/Suspense, St. Martin's Minotaur, 2005, Out of print but available digitally.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  First released in hard cover, Officer Down won Schwegel the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  So when it was slated to come out in mass market, her publisher printed up more ARCs for it - which is how I got one when the St. Martin's library rep paid a visit to my office. 

The Review:  You know why some think women are stupid?  Because it turns out, many of us are.  No really, we are.  That's the formula for this novel, which features a female cop who somehow has not managed to shoot herself with her own gun....yet.  Seriously, a duffel bag full of rocks shows more brain power than Samantha "Smack" Mack.

Sam wasn't even supposed to work that night.  She was at home, waiting for her married lover to return her phone call.  Instead she ends up going into work when the resident hypochondriac cop calls in sick.  She's riding around with her ex-partner Fred, when they get a tip from a snitch that a Very Bad Man they've been looking for has resurfaced.  They storm into the building, only to walk into a trap.  Fred ends up dead, Sam ends up concussed, and those investigating the crime scene chalk it up to "friendly fire."  A tragic accident since it was Sam's gun that delivered the fatal bullet.

This is one of those books where the author literally drops you in the middle of everything with very little lead time.  It's also a very plot-driven story, and the character development, such as it is, is fed to the reader in drips and drabs.  Sort of like quenching your thirst from a leaky faucet.  It makes for a very detached reading experience for the majority of the story, which is a neat trick since the thing is written in first person.  Feeling "detached" while reading first person takes some doing folks.

But the story is told well, and I kept flipping the pages to find out what happened to Fred, even though Sam is the sort of character I want to throw heavy objects at.  I tend to adore self-destructive characters in crime fiction.  The more screwed up they are, the more I tend to like them.  But Sam isn't just screwed up, no she's also an idiot.  Which just makes it hard to give a flying crap about the fact that she's obviously being framed.  She runs around like a loose cannon.  She won't talk to a shrink.  She won't talk to Internal Affairs.

However, she will talk to, and trust, her married loverSeriously?!?!  This girl is so dumb she makes Jessica Simpson look like a Rhodes scholar.

That's ultimately my problem with this book.  Sam is just too much of an idiot for me to care about what happens to her.  I don't care that someone is framing her, because she's too stupid to see the obvious smacking her in the face.  But, like I said, it's a well-told story.  It's well-written, I kept flipping the pages, and I had to find out how it was all going to turn out in the end.  Even with a heroine that was a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

Final Grade = D+


Anonymous said...

I've never read this author and had been reading less than favorable comments about her books. From your review, I'm glad I never started.


Dr J said...

I have trouble whenever a woman is portrayed as empty-headed--and in this case, one would wonder why any policy force would want someone like this in a position of authority. I can tolerate some of the fluff-brained females of Regency historicals, but come on . . . why should anyone in this day and age have to put up with reading the story of a clueless woman? We meet too many of those in real life.

Lynn/Elsandra said...

This sounds like a book I'd never have been able to finish, I'd have burned it! Being a police officer and female I undoubtedly would hate it. I find a lot of mysteries make me growl out of frustration at the inproper procedures, etc, but I usually can put some of that aside as long as the story and/or the characters are interesting.

azteclady said...

When so-called plot drives the train, characterization must needs disappear. Obviously the stupid heroine was necessary to provide the conflict (prolong the situation). Decent writing notwithstanding, I don't think I could have read it through either.

nath said...

Interesting review, Wendy! Aren't those books the most frustrating? Great writing, but frustrating H/H ^_^;

By the way, was this a romance? You mentioned a married lover...

Wendy said...

Keishon: I just did a cursory glance over at Amazon when I started this one - and the reviews were ALL over the place.

Dr. J: I know cops aren't perfect (hardly) - but I think I just expected her to be....better at her job. I mean, she seemed to dense.

Lynn: This one would have probably been hell on your blood pressure given that the heroine had a track record for having "personal relationships" with male colleagues.

AL: That's exactly it! A more logical thinking heroine and the book would have been 100 pages shorter ;)

Nath: Definitely NOT a romance. At all. Straight-up suspense.

joykenn said...

And this mess won a prize for best first novel! Yikes. Maybe all the judges really BELIEVE that women are mostly dumb and led around by their hormones and emotions rather than logic. Sigh!

nath said...

Sorry, I only realized afterwards what was the theme of this month's TBR challenge ^_^;

Wendy said...

Joy: The only thing keeping me from jumping off a bridge, is maybe the judges were impressed with the writing. It was certainly well-written enough for me to keep reading, even though I wanted to bitch-slap the heroine the entire book.