Review For the New Podler Review of Books by S.B. Jung
Hodge created a lovely chick-lit/thriller storyline that reminds me of Charlaine Harris’ Lily Bard mysteries that I love to eat up. The main character, Amber Fox, is a jilted ex-cop out for revenge against her incompetent superior officer, Janice Skipper, whose goal in life is to look beautiful, destroy others more competent that herself, and snag Amber’s Latin Lover for herself. Her dismissal from the Hertfordshire police force forces her to work for her ex-fiance in order to make ends meet. The storyline follows the disappearance of a famous fashion designer and his latest collection. The story has a lot of promise, and some simple clean-up would help the story flow better and reach a more diverse audience. The characters are mostly fun and the story is a nice read. The love triangle Amber Fox finds herself in is a nice touch of humanity and vulnerability, though her indecision gets to be much after awhile. We don’t want a heroine with a penchant for whining, do we?
Issues: First, the book takes place in England, so some of the slang and references are lost on a Yankee like myself. I understood references such as “flat” (apartment) and “boot” (trunk of the car), but others lost on me. If the book had been meant as a regional book, it wouldn’t make a difference, but since this review site caters to an American audience, better care needs to be given in order to market to an international audience.
As for the storyline, it was polished enough but for a few problems. First, Amber is forced to field too many assignments at once. All of them tie together to the overall picture, but time needs to be taken so the reader can absorb what’s happening and digest. Also, the part where Amber has a dream sequence and magically finds a program the Hacker can use for facial recognition is just too convenient. More development is needed her to make this wholly believable.
Also, the author seemed a little too stereotypical in her portrayal of one particular character which almost had me stop reading. Her decision to make “the Hacker” a black male would have been normal, but she decides to have him be a Haitian versed in Voodoo (voudon or Vodun are more proper), dress in over-sized hip-hop clothing, and eat only natural foods. Hodge points out his eccentricities over and over again, saying things like, “He had to be the least techy-looking guy I’d ever seen: black, over six and half feet tall with two plaits sticking out the top of his head, a hoodie three sizes too big, jeans that were so baggy they defied the laws of gravity, and a goatee beard. He looked more like a gangster rapper than a computer expert” (Hodge 2). It is this stereotyping of minorities that can be insulting and offensive to both the targeted race as well as those who do not tolerate discrimination of any sort. Stereotyping like this alienates more sensitive readers. She could have treated this in a much better manner than this and other references to the Hacker as Snoop Dogg. This is a personal opinion of mine, for the record, and some may not see into it as much as I do, so if you read it please bear that in mind.
This book is available from Amazon.
S.B. Jung has been an English Teacher since 2002. She has been writing plays, poems, and novels since 1997; Lines of Neutrality is her first published work. You can find the book at Amazon or other online retailers.