While I was reading Blind Faith I kept having flashbacks to dumb-but-lovable action TV series like Remington Steele. The plotting in this romantic suspense novel is on about the same goofball level as those shows, but unfortunately without eye candy on the order of Pierce Brosnan and worse, without the wit and knowing self-parody that might have made this story more entertaining.
Kelly Robolo is a Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter in Philadelphia who is on leave recuperating from a near-fatal injury. She was shot while spying on a protection racket, and thanks to her interference, an undercover cop was killed in the crossfire. Because of this, her name is mud with the once-supportive Philly police department and with Detective Nick McBride, the dead cop’s best friend, with whom Kelly shares an unrequited attraction.
While on sick leave, Kelly’s best friend asks her to look into her husband Jonathan’s suspicious disappearance. Jonathan is a high-ranking casino executive, and neither the cops, his employers, nor his upscale in-laws are much interested in pursuing the case. It soon transpires that this loving family man may have been running drugs in Miami to support an expensive mistress, and the charred remains in the rubble of a notorious fleabag motel may or may not be his. Kelly is on the case, and Nick joins in because his father was killed while working at the same casino as Jonathan.
As romantic suspense, the book is weak in both aspects. The suspense would be forgivable if it was shoring up a strongly-characterized romance. The romance would be adequate icing for a tightly-paced thriller. But the two parts are weak and do not combine into an entertaining whole. The narrative is a classic case of telling, not showing. Characters are chilled by threats that aren’t chilling and charmed by rogues who aren’t charming; they laugh uproariously at one another’s lame jokes. It’s a gambit to tell the reader how to feel that fails repeatedly.
The plotting is tenuous and implausible throughout. The crooks bend over backwards to assist their pursuers. One, for example, goes the old-fashioned route and pastes together threats based loosely on old nursery rhymes. Not only is this unbearably retro – a laser printer and cheap paper would do the job better and an aesthetically-minded crook could even choose the “Ransom” font for the same effect in a fraction of the time – and not only are the nursery threats neither rhyming nor clever, but the crook keeps a reference copy of Mother Goose on hand for those moments when a simple “Back off or you’re dead” just won’t do.
The characters are ill-founded as well, with Kelly at their forefront. Kelly is supposed to be a crack investigative reporter recovering from a recent near-death experience, and she was never convincing as either. A few words that do not appear in this Pulitzer-winner’s vocabulary are circumstantial evidence and hearsay; instead Kelly is easily diverted by transparent lies from characters she already knows not to trust. She also has ludicrous notions of personal safety – five weeks after being shot, she’s certain that two toughs in an alley will back off because she knows karate. Honestly, if she was in a typical thriller she’d be roadkill in 15 pages, but luckily in her world the bad guys are just a bit slower.
Nick is a bit more competent than Kelly, but his brainpower is no match for the central conceit of the story, which is that a good half-dozen characters are capable of living double lives and keeping their secret activities so well-hidden that their spouses, children, best friends, etc., have no notion of their shady dealings year after year. A book can sustain one, maybe two such characters believably; six is way over the top. My favorite moment was when a baddie explained that he had successfully deluded everyone for years thanks to his high school drama classes. Considering the average candlepower of the characters, this was all too believable.
While I can’t recommend this book, I did enjoy the moments that reminded me of the campy action shows I watched when I was a kid. If the book played up the campiness and added some wry humor, I might not mind the illogic so much. Meanwhile, I wonder what Remington Steele’s up to?