Friday, 9 July 2010
‘Flirt’ – Laurell K. Hamilton (Headline)
You should never go back but sometimes you find that you just have to... Long time readers of the blog will be familiar with how I feel about the ‘Anita Blake’ books that I’ve read. For the benefit of recent visitors, it’s basically a case of my feeling sorry for a plot that appeared to be doing quite well for itself before Anita Blake abandoned it and went off to have sex with... well, anyone and everyone really.
Yet here I am again, back for more of what could potentially be the same. What happened? ‘Flirt’ is a very short book (one hundred and fifty six pages for the main story) and a lack of reading time this week highlighted this book as one to pick up for that very reason. I also figured that with such a short book there wouldn’t be room for one of Anita’s trademark marathon sex binges... would there? Part of me also wanted to try something a little different to my current fare, giving Hamilton another chance to see if anything had changed in her writing since the last book of hers that I had picked up (‘Blood Noir’). You know, like including a plot or anything like that...
I should have known better shouldn’t I?
It’s around about this part of any review here that I give people a brief summary of the plot and let you know what it’s all about. This being an Anita Blake novel makes that very difficult to do, almost impossible in fact. If you’re a fan of Anita Blake getting all self examining about her relationships (and then having sex with a total stranger) then this is what you can expect here but there’s no real plot to drive it all forwards. Yet for a few brief shining pages it could have all been so different...
Laurell K. Hamilton likes to mess with my head and not in the way that she intends her writing to do. The first few pages gave me a brief insight into what Anita’s day job can sometimes entail, this time letting a client down gently when his request for her to reanimate his dead wife proves totally unfeasible. This was a side of Anita that I hadn’t really seen before and it was a real breath of fresh air (as was a similar meeting that happened later on in the book). I actually got to see Anita as a person and the outcome of her meeting promised interesting things for the rest of the book. Things were looking up.
So what does Hamilton do next? She drags Anita, and a select band of lovers, down to the local diner for a lesson in how to flirt.
Seriously, a series already groaning under the weight of sexual tension and emotional angst clearly needs a little more of the same. No, I wouldn’t have thought so either but there you go. Nothing new is said in the intervening pages and it does make you wonder where the need was to say it all over again. Anita knows she can have any man she wants but doesn’t really believe she can and then finds out that she can after all. I don’t know if this is meant to make me feel any sympathy for Anita’s character but I ended up feeling exactly the opposite at this point because it was all so contrived. If you want me to feel any degree of sympathy for your main character then subtlety is the word here!
After a brief flirtation with the plot (pun intended), it’s kidnap time as Anita is taken to meet one of the people that she met and declined to work for. What the reader gets here is a confused mess where Hamilton attempts to portray Anita as strong and weak all at the same time. Her men are in trouble and she can’t save them (she’s obviously the only one who can) but that’s ok because they’ll rescue her. You can have it both ways but it needs to be written a lot better than this, especially when Anita’s sex powers ride roughshod over what could have been an interesting standoff and render the outcome in no doubt. Is it really a case of kidnap when you can sex your way out of it at any time? And what the hell was the head kidnapper thinking, leaving the cohort most susceptible to Anita locked up with her? “I don’t trust you anymore so I’m going to lock you in a shed with the main reason you’re in such a state of unfulfilled sexual tension right now. And then I’m going to act all surprised when I come back and find you two at it...” Dumbing down a decent villain like that, just to shoehorn the necessary sex in, is verging on the criminal. Anita’s hypocrisy, apparently the ends justify the means but only when it’s her, also doesn’t sit well with Hamilton’s attempts to cast her as the perfect heroine
The outcome is never in any doubt really so there’s no urgency pushing the book forward. Things conclude at a crawl rather than a rush and I wasn’t left with any real urge to find out what happens in the next book (also in the pile).
It’s always interesting to read about how a story came to being and this was generally the case with the afterword. The rest of the book though was a bit of a mess as far as I was concerned. Fans of the more recent books will lap it up, I’m sure, but I’ve seen nothing here (or in the last few books) that has made me a fan... Can anyone tell me what I'm missing?
Four and a Half out of Ten