★ ★ 1/2
Nostalgia Series #1
Way back in the mid-nineties, I tried reading every series with a female investigator I could lay my hands on. Kat Colorado is one of the series that I recall enjoying a great deal. When I reached the then-end, I was disappointed ended and hopeful Kijewski would resume. Meandering through the memory files recently, I decided to give this series another go, reading through the lens of a decade or two. After all, it won the Shamus and Anthony Awards for Best First Novel, right?
That demon nostalgia. One of the reasons I rarely pick up books I remember fondly but indistinctly.
It begins when Charity Collins, advice columnist, calls friend and private investigator Kat Colorado for help. Charity’s in the middle of a divorce, and her soon-to-be-ex Sam has informed her that he has lost 200k of their money in Vegas. Charity, of course, suspects duplicity. Despite a personal rule against working for friends, Kat takes the case and jets off to Las Vegas to track down the money. As she’s leaving the airport, she runs into a childhood friend, Deck, all grown up and suspiciously well-connected. When they meet for dinner, Kat is sidetracked from her mission after they stop by an art opening and she discovers a body.
I certainly can’t remember what I thought on first read so long ago, but now the writing seems awkward. It has that ‘first-book’ language feel where the author is trying a little too hard to use adjectives and adverbs to jazz up dialogue and setting. When Charity comes over in the middle of the night, Kat “watched morosely” as Charity raids the fridge, and “watches glumly” as Charity opens a bottle of wine Kat was saving. Then Kat “shakes off the idea” of Charity’s fudge combinations and “shuddered” at her finishing up her binge with hot chocolate. The fluidity (and sense) does improve, but the awkward writing coupled with Kat’s lukewarm support with her “good friend” led to rapidly deflating expectations.
Foreshadowing was heavy-handed, particularly in the early sections of the book. I suppose it is a stylistic choice, but I tend to think it’s a weak one. By page ten, there’s a musing on what if? with speculation capped by the phrase “Curiosity kills the cat.” Unfortunately, those kind of pun-ish foreshadowings continue to crop up.
On the up side, I did like Kat’s humor, although it mostly seemed to erupt at inappropriate moments, presumably out of nervousness. I couldn’t help but feel a moment of kinship when someone pours Kat a cup of coffee:
“He poured two cups and put a huge teaspoon of powdered cream substitute in. I shuddered. He handed me the coffee and patted me on the shoulder, thinking, no doubt, that I was overcome. Which I was, but it was the cream substitute, not Sam. I should have gone with black.”
And, for those who like mystery with a side of romance, there’s a chance meeting that develops quickly. Kat does seem to have empowered, strong-willed overtones, a character trait I prefer over hand-wringing distress. Still, it’s the kind of feminism that lacks subtlety, being couched in the most stereotypical of terms (“my job vs you caring that I’m risking my life”), and forgetting that Kat actually has no real skills that we’ve seen when it comes to protecting herself. She’s also kind of a snot to people that she doesn’t think deserve it, whether it’s a waitress giving lousy service or a real estate agent. I suppose that suited me when I was younger and more arrogant, or younger and lacking some self-esteem (depending on which time period we are talking about), but on the whole, I wasn’t impressed.
All that said, I’d say it entertained me. Until, that is, the last thirty or so pages when it attempts to up the finale by adding one of those silly thriller finales. The villain is straight out of James Bond, cold glittering eyes and creepy sexual domination fantasies (I believed it was compared to “breaking” a horse). As a further feminist bonus, there’s an “exotic woman” angle that makes it even more creeptastic. I’m pretty sure Old-me forgot that scene on purpose, but I would have liked a heads up. Way to go, Old-me!
Honestly, what a bitch, nostalgia. It would have been a lukewarm “I liked it” until the thriller finish. Now the adult in me just rolls my eyes (and yes, I understand the irony in that sentence.)