RogerBW's Blog

What's A Girl Gotta Do, Sparkle Hayter 08 September 2014

Robin Hudson had a promising career as a TV journalist, but blew it with some public embarrassment. Now her ex-husband has a younger and prettier fiancée, her job for not-CNN involves investigating a sperm bank, and she's about to be blackmailed. Then the blackmailer turns up dead…

This is not a conventional mystery; as in Janet Evanovich's apparently-endless Stephanie Plum series, there's lots of stuff going on that's not plot-relevant. These diversions and fireworks effectively distracted me from the search for the murderer, which I count as a win for the author. If you're looking for a strictly rule-following mystery, however, go elsewhere; counted solely by clue presence, the pace is pretty slow, because of all the other things that are going on.

Unlike Stephanie Plum, Robin Hudson is competent: maybe not the wonder-reporter she thinks she could be, and certainly no good in the field of personal relationships, but she's basically decent at her job. You will have to take her as she is in order to enjoy the book, mind; she's self-interested, perhaps even self-absorbed, and prone to minor casual attacks on co-workers she doesn't like. One just has to roll with it.

Hayter was a TV journalist before she took up writing, and is clearly using her own experiences as background information. There's no tedious messing around explaining how a TV news studio works: we know, or we can pick it up as we go along. I imagine someone who knew more about the early history of CNN would see more parallels with the "ANN" that's Robin's employer. It's not perhaps quite as fascinating as Hayter thinks it is, but it's still enjoyable. There are rather too many characters; admittedly they all get their potted background (and are probably drawn from the life), but from the perspective of a modern novel the cast's about twice as big as it should be.

In part this book is fascinating as a look back into a world where TV news was still nearly as important as it thought it was. (It's also apparently one of the defining works of the subgenre known as Tart Noir.)

Followed by Nice Girls Finish Last.

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  1. Posted by John Dallman at 07:14pm on 08 September 2014

    Good to see this series getting reprinted. I read them in about 1995-6 as entertainment, not worrying about the mystery side. They're good fun.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 07:24pm on 08 September 2014

    Certainly if I were a purist mystery fan I'd be unsatisfied. As it is, there's a lot to enjoy here.

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