RogerBW's Blog

Nice Girls Finish Last, Sparkle Hayter 09 October 2014

Second of Hayter's mysteries about TV journalist Robin Hudson. This time her new gynæcologist has been found, handcuffed and then shot in the head, and there's no shortage of people who might have wished him ill.

The difficulty with this plot is motivation. In the previous book, Robin was a suspect in the murder of her would-be blackmailer, so she had a reason to look into it. This time, she has an alibi and the police clear her straight away; her boss gets her to look into the case in the hope that a connection to a well-known S&M club, a matchbook found at the scene, will provide a marketable sleaze angle, but even then Robin isn't really investigating most of the time; she's a TV journalist, not a detective. It's all a bit thin, and indeed the eventual culprit isn't someone who's really been signposted at all.

But then, as before, the mystery isn't really the point of the book. This is a spiritual cousin to Simon Brett's Fethering mysteries, where much of the point is in the various people and situations one observes rather than in the puzzle-solving plot. There are perhaps slightly too many of those people, and keeping them more or less straight in my mind became more work than is usual for these things. The negative attitude towards lifestyle S&M participants is somewhat old-fashioned even for 1997, but was probably less unusual then than I find it now.

Robin is self-interested, again, but an ongoing thread has her trying to be "good" and think positively; I'd expected this to be connected to the title in some way, but it seemed to peter out without really going anywhere. Instead, combined with a suddenly parlous employment situation, it becomes a reason for her not to make the sarcastic comments which were an enjoyable part of the previous book, though there are one or two:

For someone in her mid-twenties, Tamayo had had quite a long and varied career. Before going to work for ANN in Tokyo, which had led to the job in New York, she had worked for a sleazy Japanese TV program called Amazing True Stories. They did features like "The True Living Gold Snake." Tamayo’s job, as she summed it up, was "to paint the snake gold." Sometimes, when Jerry asked us to do something journalistically dubious, we would turn to each other and say, "It’s time to paint the snake."

It's a step down from What's a Girl Gotta Do but still worth reading. I shan't be rushing into the next volume, though.

Followed by Revenge of the Cootie Girls.

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