Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15635-5
Romantic Suspense, 2017 (Reissue)
The first few chapters of When All the Girls Have Gone are actually gripping reading. Our heroine Charlotte Sawyer’s stepsister Jocelyn had recently gone off to a vacation at a nunnery in the Caribbean. That place is devoid of modern day technology, perfect for people who want a break from social media and the Web. Unfortunately, that becomes inconvenient when Charlotte needs to get in touch with her ASAP.
You see, Charlotte finds a package at Jocelyn’s doorstep, from a woman who was recently found dead, allegedly from overdose. It comes with a note which mentioned that the sender, Louise, had a “reason to be worried”, and some kind of “copy” is kept in that sender’s condo storage locker. There are some keys in the package too. Worried about what all this can mean, Charlotte decides to retrieve that “copy”, just in case, to keep it for Jocelyn’s behalf. At Louis’s place, she meets Max Cutler, a PI hired by Louise’s cousin. That cousin doesn’t buy that Louise had relapsed to her old druggie ways or that she was a high-priced hooker, and hired Max to sort out the matter. Max and Charlotte end up working together, and they soon find themselves involved in a case that include murder and rape.
It’s a pretty interesting setup, but unfortunately, things go downhill after a few chapters when the author begins having her characters basically going from one place to another, talking and talking and talking. This may work in a more visual medium, when we can have hot people doing all that talking while wandering about a set, but in a medium composed solely of words on a page, I’m bored. At one time, I’m taken aback when Max brings up that only one day has passed since he bumps into Charlotte – it feels like they have been wandering around the place and babbling for interminable lengths of time.
The bad guy is obvious the moment he shows up, doing all he can to be a cartoon villain as if he were auditioning for a role in a live action Looney Tunes movie, and yes, he is the bad guy, so there’s no surprise in that department. The author plans for the suspense to be all about the figuring out of the villain’s reason, but it is hard to care when the villain makes it an uphill struggle for me to take him seriously. All that’s missing in his repertoire is the evil “MUAHAHAHAHA!” laugh. Given that he is a Looney Tunes villain, he could have at least try to roll a boulder over these two or set up other Wile E Coyote-ish traps for those two to keep things interesting, but no, I am not allowed to have fun today.
Meanwhile, Charlotte displays an annoying optimistic and naïve outlook about life, in what is supposed to be a counter for Max’s more cynical and pragmatic viewpoint, but she often comes off as addled instead. Max is the pro of the two, so he does most of the heavy thinking and lifting, so poor Charlotte ends up like a bobblehead doll that trails after Max, nodding at his brilliance and thirsty about how hot he is when she’s not trying to assume that things surely can’t be that bad. And yes, those two look and feel exactly like every hero and heroine that the author has ever written in the last six centuries.
I suppose I should be analyzing the twists, the plots, et cetera, but at the end of the day, I’m too bored to care. When All the Girls Have Gone... well, I’d be going too now, and not a moment too soon.