Femme Fatale by Dominic Piper has an interesting, eye-catching cover in the Kindle edition that I downloaded. Looking back on the reading experience, I believe that was the best part of the book. The second-best part is a lesson that I hope I learned; it is not necessary to finish every book I begin. When there are many indications that the novel is going nowhere, it is okay to abandon it. Usually, I continue with a novel I have started with the determination to find some good points that justify the story’s existence. This novel may have broken me of that habit.
As I look at the novel comprehensively, I have two impressions. First, it is like a soup with many ingredients. Some are good, appropriate, and delicious. Others are added to provide bulk to the dish; it is hard for me to determine their necessity to the overall concoction. It is as if this collection of ingredients were dumped into a bowl and left, never to be mixed or processed. Maybe the cook went home. Maybe the cook was fired never to return. With this dish, the cook is missing. My second impression comes from my long-ago youth when I began reading mysteries and crime novels. When my age was still counted in single digits, I read novels of hard-bitten self-centered detectives shouldering their way through society with no regard for anything other than their next drink or their next sex partner. The language was not explicit when used to describe sex or violence but reader minds (even young ones) could get an idea of dark mysteries to explore. As I read this novel, I got the impression I was reading a novel from long ago with updated language. I detected a formula.
When I looked closer for a detailed view of the story, I became quickly exhausted first be the private investigator protagonist, Daniel Beckett, and shortly thereafter by several other characters. The characters are clichés. To comment further that the characters were insufferably predictable would be some form of redundant cliché. Beckett is the character that offended me most. Given that he is the protagonist, this reading experience did not start off well. Of course, Beckett comes across as irresistible to all women. (Did I mention cliché?). Beckett makes even an ex-Army, ex-cop, macho fan of Marion Morrison such as I cringe at the hubris of this character. There is only one female in the novel (there are many, many females in the novel) that Beckett doesn’t want to sleep with. Not only does he fantasize about sleeping with every female he meets, he graciously accepts that they all want to sleep with him. The one exception is seventy years old and if she weren’t seriously deranged due to bad drugs Beckett would probably entertain thoughts of her as well.
Beckett has a mystery to solve. Rikki Tuan, a Chinese Triad enforcer has disappeared. Triad boss, Mr. Sheng, wants to hire Beckett to find Rikki. Sheng can’t use Chinese detectives because one of them may be involved in the disappearance. Informing the police is not an option. Mr. Sheng, as the leader of a Triad, is a mysterious omniscient figure who will always be in the background and will always be watching the progress of Beckett. That’s what Chinese do: always omniscient, always mysterious, and always in the background. Mr. Sheng introduces Beckett to a middle-person who Beckett will use to pass information to Sheng. She, of course, is jaw-droppingly beautiful although weirdly dressed in a sports bra, feathers, and bright colors. She is also omniscient and mysterious (because she is Chinese) and might be an assassin just like the missing Rikki. Beckett is instantly attracted to her as she is, naturally, to him. The two go off to play “fifty shades” games stopping only occasionally for Beckett to reflect on his job.
Beckett doesn’t have much of a support system to help him get information. The omniscient Chinese don’t seem to want to share whatever they may already know. However, Beckett has a computer expert he can call any time. This nerd works in a mysterious area outside the law and has skills of the caliber that made Snowden leave the US. He is expensive, but Beckett has no problem with this as Sheng has agreed to pay all expenses. No matter the time of day or night, Beckett can call on this computer fringe person and get answers to question such as “Where am I?” This figure is a staple in many mysteries when an author can’t figure out how to get information to a hero.
Burlesque plays a big part in this story. It is possible that the missing Rikki became enamored of a beautiful stripper, Paige (or Veronique) and came to a bad end. This is a reason for Beckett to haunt burlesque houses where he will meet scores of semi-nude to totally nude women. If any conversation takes place between them and Beckett, game over. They are his. All by mutual attraction of course. During Beckett’s investigation, he meets several minor characters; secretaries, cashiers, women who accompany some of Beckett’s friends in happenstance meetings. Beckett fantasizes about all of them as they do of him. We have evidence of this by a continually recurring phrase. As (any female character) leaves Beckett’s presence, they depart with “possibly an exaggerated sway of the hips.” (loc 4842-4844). This phrase, many times used with the word “sashay,” is maddening. I have never seen “sashay” used so many times outside of a square dance.
There are crooked ex-cops, psychopath ex-cops, and American Royalty. Beckett, in addition to being annoying regarding females, is also a connoisseur of food, drink, perfume, fashion, languages, architecture, and art. His skills in martial arts are prodigious. With such near perfection in so many things, perhaps we can believe that he is a “chick magnet.”
I could go on to comment on logical inconsistencies such as how a character is deemed omniscient (and Chinese) but is unable to find a street address that can be knowable to anyone with the most rudimentary computer skills, but I try to keep these reviews short. I have already failed to do that. This 565-page novel sells for USD 3.85 on Kindle. Luckily for me, I read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans I gave it two stars because there are intriguing and good elements in the story. They are far outweighed by the negative elements.