Everybody has a not-so-secret desire to be a celebrity, but few realise that it's not all wine and roses. It is hard work getting to the top and even harder staying there. The money is good, with lots of people wanting a piece of the action. Rivals mean to elbow them aside. Paparazzi are in their faces, groupies in their beds.
X O by Jeffery Deaver 500 pp, 2012 Hodder paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 350 baht
Best-selling Yank author Jeffery Deaver _ former journalists, folk singer, attorney _ knows the trials and tribulations at first hand. To hear him tell it, the bane of the celebrity's existence is the stalker. He or she has a screw loose, believing that the celebrity has singled them out for a personal relationship.
In a sense, he's right. The best celebrities reach each number of his audience, rather than merely the audience as a whole. Which is dangerous when the reader, listener, viewer has a psychological quirk and takes this one-to-one "communication" to heart. Which is the theme of XO, Deaver's novel.
The celebrity is Kayleigh Towne, America's leading folk singer. Writing her own words and music, she has the genius to reach the hearts of her public, encouraging their loves and sympathising with their break-ups, offering encouragement that other loves will come their way. Can counselling do any better?
All at once, the murders begin _ of men and women known to dislike Kayleigh and of those who are closest to her. Enter one of the author's literary creations, Detective Kathryn Dance of the California Bureau of Investigation, to solve the cases. Invariably she consults another of Deaver's creations, quadriplegic crime-scene specialist Lincoln Rhyme.
Between them they identify the stalker. Still, Edwin Sharp appears to be too wiley to catch even when sending them taunting notes. Indeed, he abducts Kayleigh from under their noses. Can she escape the psychopath obsessed with her? The building suspense leads to a taut finish.
Distracting is the author's including the lyrics of a number of folk songs that supposedly move us. This reviewer likes quite a few folk songs, but only when sung. Those written don't grab me. Apart from that, I've learned a good deal about celebrity stalkers.
FYI: Jeffery Deaver has been tapped as Ian Fleming's latest successor to pen updated James Bond novels. Carte Blanche, his first effort, was a success. There is every reason to believe that its sequels will be, as well.
Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French 448 pp, 2013 Penguin paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 325 baht.
In love with London
With all the criminalists (lawmen) around like greyhounds at the starting line excitedly awaiting the shot to take off, it's a wonder that there are crooks devising ways to break the law _ and acting them out. Foolhardy, because when the police and special agents need help they call in expert consultants.
Nevertheless, the crooks feel that they can outsmart the experts or they are insane, can't be profiled, their actions unpredictable. Crime novelists are to be credited with playing both sides.
Is it any wonder that Scotland Yard and the FBI invite such writers to lecture to them? The UK's Nicci French (a pseudonym for a husband-wife duo) has turned more than one investigation around, then pointed it in the right direction.
Frieda Klein is a psychotherapist with a medical degree, who is called in by the authorities when cases are going nowhere. Single, her boyfriend Sandy in the States and returning only on holidays, Frieda isn't above having one-night stands with others. Her secret is that her father committed suicide when she was 15 and she still has nightmares about it, which is why she wanders the streets at night and knows as much about London as a cabbie.
The running mystery in the series is that Frieda has a fairy godfather who gets her out of fixes, even saving her life. "Dean Reeve" makes his presence felt, yet is always out of sight.
French plays with book titles. Previously there was Blue Monday. Under review is Tuesday's Gone. Coming up is Waiting For Wednesday. There are two sets of evil-doers here _ killers, knives their weapon of preference. There's the con man and con women who commit murder for money and the feeling of power.
Then there's the insane girl who feels that everybody in the world is her enemy, including Frieda. The police don't come off too well (Frieda is let go because of fiscal cutbacks, conducting a successful investigation of her own).
Brits may enjoy Nicci French more than Yanks. This reviewer can't recall authors treating the Big Apple so tenderly and minutely.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer