RogerBW's Blog

Risking It All, Ann Granger 29 January 2018

2001 thriller/mystery; fourth of Granger's novels of Fran Varady, would-be thespian and amateur sleuth. A private investigator tracks down Fran to tell her that her mother (who abandoned the family when Fran was quite young) is dying, and wants to talk to her. But that's not all she wants. It turns out that after she left she had another daughter…

This is a tough book in some ways; Fran is her usual self, mostly cheerful in adversity but still with an array of personality problems that she still largely fails to recognise; but rather than being led into a dangerous situation by her curiosity the major hook here is that she's promised to keep certain things secret. She approaches everyone in the same way, and if she were just a bit more accommodating of other people's clearly deluded viewpoints… well, all right, probably just as many people would have died, but things would have been rather less fraught.

The plot is sadly full of loopholes (why didn't X check Y, public information which would have answered their questions); previous books have carried me along with Fran, but this one slipped at times. There are odd errors of research; having visited Wimbledon and got a clue pointing to Kew, Fran goes all the way back to north London and comes out to Kew the next day, even though they're only a short journey apart by public transport. And where is she getting the money for all this investigation anyway? On the other hand, we meet Inspector Morgan again (she showed up in the first book but hasn't been seen since), who's very clearly doing her best to help Fran, but Fran's unable to see it – and we get all this from Fran's narration.

Someone's clearly told Granger that "actress" has become a dirty word, because a running joke (such as it is) consists of people calling Fran that and her saying "we don't say that any more".

I like Fran, perhaps because I've read the earlier books, and this is a series in which you have to like Fran or it won't work. Even so, I found myself getting impatient with her at times and considered not finishing the book; there are some very slow passages in which not much seems to be happening and not much seems as though it might ever happen. On the other hand there are several possibilities opened up here which suggest that Fran might be enhancing the investigative side of her life, which is better than repeatedly stumbling over dead bodies.

Definitely a weak entry in the series, but I'll try another. Followed by Watching Out.

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