Deadly Pleasure
by Brenda Joyce, historical (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-97768-9


Book two in the Francesca Cahill Does Stupid In Early 1900s New York series, the first book being Deadly Love (published under the pseudonym BD Joyce).

Deadly Pleasure is where I get off the Brenda Joyce Stupid Train. I can't take it any more. In March and April, there will be new Francesca Cahill books. Brenda Joyce also has a new contemporary out in July. The Jayne Ann Krentz virus must be hitting the town hard. That or Ms Joyce probably needs some extra moolah to send her kids to college. Or something.

Of course, with all the mass-diarrhea of books, something has to give, and in this case, it's quality.

Deadly Pleasure is a mystery where "plot twists" are actually implausible coincidences, "surprise revelations" are anything but, and the plot - if one can call it that - is pretty much a join-the-dots pre-school kiddie affair. Worse, the heroine's investigative methods is so subpar and dependent on luck, Fran Blunderbill here makes Nancy Drew look like Agatha Christie. In real life, this woman will be dead the moment she tries to cross the road and gets run over by a succession of vehicles the moment she places her foot on the road. Here, she has a man, Rick Bragg, to do the babysitting.

Since Dicky Drag here is hero, he has the luxury of having a brain. Although whether the brain's between the legs or in his skull is still up to the jury, seeing how he can stand being in Fran Blunderbill's company for so long. Fran is the kind of wide-eyed dumb heroine who stares at a dead body, bloodied with a hole in the head, and asks aloud, "Was he shot? Or beaten by a stick?"

Let's beat that stupid chit with a stick!

It doesn't help that Brenda Joyce's idea of exposition is similar to how one tells slow, young kids to behave. The author has to explain every single one of her character's motivations and actions in a sing-song kiddie questioning manner.

When Fran sees two shady guys meet, she has to wonder aloud, "Did they have business dealings? Were they friends?" And so it goes. It is as if Ms Joyce doesn't trust me to understand her story. Maybe she thinks I'm some kind of dim-witted mumu, unable to read between the lines to "get it", hence her telling me everything, even the obvious.

And best of all, Fran's inability to (a) tell lies properly, (b) master even a little discretion or common sense, and (c) adapt to her circumstances. Like I said, roadkill.

Oh yeah, the plot. Fran gets new case. Client discovered with dead body. Fran investigates. Or tries to. Or something. The solution to the mystery bites Fran in the butt, Fran extrapolates and expositions, and the cops arrest Mrs Giggles for bludgeoning Fran Blunderbill with the ugly stick until Fran resembles a smelly pile of slime.

The real mystery here is what happened to Fran Blunderbill's brain. Or Ms Joyce's ability to construct a mystery. Who tells her she can write a good mystery starring one of those braindead "virtuous, honest, innocent" bluestocking romance heroines anyway? Next thing you know, guys from the Mystery Tuesday Nights Club will be shrieking at us romance readers for contaminating the world or some other rot. As if we need more nonsense from them. Sheesh.

Rating: 40


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