Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-680-8
Fantasy Romance, 2009
Mary Hughes’s previous effort Biting Nixie had me feeling as if a CD by Justin Bieber had been playing non-stop inside my head for at least a week. When I come across Bite My Fire, I’m reluctant at first to give it a try. But still, everyone deserves at least two chances, right?
Right away from page one, I am reminded of how disconnected I am from the author’s sense of humor. I have a hard time not trying to wince at all the one-liners here. The heroine’s first person narration comes off as so juvenile, her attempts at wisecrack more embarrassing than anything else. “Cherry-breaking case”? “Case of the Punctured Prick”? How old are we again today?
Officially the murder was SCH-1, but I called it the Case of the Punctured Prick.
The first homicide ever in Meiers Corners was my cherry-breaking case as a police detective. Okay, probationary detective. Okay, third shift probationary detective. But a girl’s gotta start somewhere, right?
I was at the station reading Midwest Police Monthly when the phone rang. A glance at the line showed dispatch. Something going down – like assault with a Super Soaker. The senior detective on graveyard was supposed to take it, but Blatzky was in the can, fourth time that night. He was six months from retiring, but I think he actually checked out a year or two back.
So I took the call. “Hey, Alice. What red-hot crime do we have in Meiers Corners tonight? Shopping cart stolen? Mrs. Gruen jaywalking in her sleep again?”
“Something better, Elena.” Alice Schmidt was our nightshift dispatcher, also six months from retiring. She’d been six months from retiring since I started as a beat cop. At least eighty years old, she was from the generation that worked until you dropped. She was convinced the day she actually retired, she’d keel over. “Where’s Blatzky?”
“He’s in the john again, poor guy,” I said. “Diarrhea.”
Alice snorted. “Too many beers. Or doing a little ‘solo investigation’, if you know what I mean.”
“Your luck, though. Body’s on Fifth and Main.”
“Body?” My heart started to pound. All my life I dreamed of being a detective, lusted after it. The only thing I hungered more for was a good lay, but that was another story.
These are the first few paragraphs of the story and already my head is throbbing painfully. Old women inserted into the story for cheap laughs, a heroine who behaves and speaks like a brat, bizarrely timed references to masturbation and sex that make it impossible to take the story seriously – the whole thing is like an unfunny stand-up session.
Oh yes, the story. The perpetually horny Elena O’Rourke wants to be a wisecracking detective so bad, she jumps at the opportunity to investigate a murder. This leads her to cross paths with the vampire Bo Strongwell, and like every good cop would, she drools over him and acts like a hormonal popcorn in a pan around him. The story by itself is a pretty typical romantic urban fantasy story, right down to the heroine who tries so hard to mask her many intellectual and physical inadequacies by laying on the wisecracks as if her very life depends on coming off like a bad stand-up comedian who just doesn’t know when to stop.
Sorry, folks, this is one story where the author’s sense of humor is completely, totally, and absolutely wrong for me. I honestly don’t think that this is a bad book in itself, it’s just that this author’s writing style is painful for me to read. I’d place Mary Hughes in the same category as, say, Dana Marie Bell and Katie MacAlister: authors whose books always seem more like an indulgent showcase of their sense of humor than anything else.
I’d have to boot Ms Hughes from my reading list from this point onward, but I think we will both be happier for it.