Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-7633-9
Romantic Suspense, 2009
If Cate Noble is not a new pseudonym of Cherry Adair, then I suspect fans of Cherry Adair are going to have a new author to look forward to. Dead Right shows plenty of, er, charm similar to a typical romantic suspense from Ms Adair: over-the-top male machismo, cartoon-like action sequences, and – the deal breaker for me most of the time with Ms Adair’s books – a heroine whose middle name is “Addled”. Unfortunately for Ms Noble and this book, I happen to be a Southeast Asian reader and as a result, this book really cheeses me off with its depiction of Thailand and Malaysia as the kind of places you’d see in an action movie back in the 1980s.
Yes, I know in Thailand we still have people with bombs and prisons where brutal locals beat the crap out of Americans. But come on, we’re in 2009 now. The days when the folks in this region think they are in Miss Saigon wailing about the movies in their minds are long gone. You aren’t going to find Thais dreaming of becoming American citizens and therefore doing anything to assist Americans – we Asians are smarter now; if we want to live in America, we’d smuggle ourselves in and live illegally over there. Besides, impoverished folks in poor Asian countries who would do anything to be rich would find it easier to head over to Japan or, heck, even Malaysia to work. Eating ice creams in New York and bearing babies of American GIs – oh, please.
God knows he’d choked down more than his share of that and other crap these past four weeks while trolling the backwaters of Malay seas in search of drug merchants. Which in the backwaters of Malaysia pretty much meant every vessel.
Come on, that’s not fair. We Malaysians also have nice cruise ships with online casinos. And we also smuggle drugs out of the country using airplanes – we have three marvelous airports in the Peninsular Malaysia alone. Or so I hear anyway. Boats are so old fashioned, they are mostly used nowadays by Malaysian entrepreneurs trying to smuggle Indonesian illegal immigrants into the country.
Oh, and the currency of Thailand is the baht, not bhat. Bhat is the Thai insult for people who write about gangsters and terrorists in Thailand when these people couldn’t even spell the local currency properly.
“You’re not amputating anything. He’s an American!” Rocco motioned to the stretcher and shook his head vehemently as he slashed his arms downward. “No fucking way!”
How is it that most Southeast Asians get this impression that some Americans are obnoxious, rude, and entitled again?
So, we can establish by now that Dead Right is set in an alternate universe where in 2009 Americans can still happily meddle in the affairs of other countries while obnoxiously claiming special treatment just because they are tall, white, and hairy. Our hero, CIA agent Dante Johnson, spent some time in a Thai prison before a combination of pathetic Thais dreaming of the movies in their minds and American machismo allowed him to break free. Now living under a new name, he nonetheless knows that the woman who betrayed him to those Thai villains, Catalina Dion, is alive. Reports say that she bit the dust, but Dante can feel it right down to the bone between his legs that his false lover is alive. He wants revenge.
Of course, Cat is still alive. Not only that, she is now a mother. Yes, she had Dante’s secret baby and the whole reason for their separation is something I’d best leave readers to sort out for themselves. I’ll just say this: if Catalina was ever a capable agent in the past, clearly motherhood has killed every ounce of this “talent” in her body. After all, Cat is a useless and miserable damsel in distress here. I’d suspect that Ms Noble is trying to say something about motherhood here if I didn’t know better.
The story is actually a typical misunderstanding issue, spiced up by the fact that it really takes a while before Cat and Dante meet again. Still, there are flashbacks to keep the “romance” going, in a way, while the reader is waiting for those two to meet again. The author also has fun with the timeline, sending the story back and forth from the past to the present and back again. But if I take away the fancy gimmicks, I will get a bloated and ridiculous cartoon of a romantic action story starring a himbo beefcake and a dim-witted bimbo. Add in the ridiculous portrayal of Southeast Asia as if it’s the 1980s again and the world is John Rambo’s oyster, and I get a story that is just begging for me to call it dead wrong.