Long, Lean, and Lethal
Long, Lean, and Lethal may be labeled fiction, but it seems more like romantic suspense. In most romantic suspense I’ve read lately it seems to me that either the romance works or the suspense works but one element works better than the other. This is the first novel I’ve seen where neither element works.
Jennifer Connolly is the daughter of renowned actress Abby Sawyer and a soap star in her own right. Abby is ill with Parkinson’s disease, and she calls her stepson, Conar Markham, home to be with her. The real reason she asks him to come home is that she believes someone is going to kill Jennifer. Because Abby’s medication often makes her see and hear voices in the walls, Jennifer and most other people don’t believe in the threats. When actresses begin to turn up dead, their modes of death reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock movies, Jennifer and Conar begin to take the threats seriously.
Jennifer is one of the most unlikable heroines I’ve ever read. Her attitude is most often resentful and bitchy, and her only redeeming characteristic is her love for her mother. The rest of the time, she alternates between hating Conar because he’s there for her mother and lusting after him. She also ventures into TSTL territory a few times when she goes off by herself while there’s a killer on the loose. Duh!
Conar is marginally better. He dislikes Jennifer and (rightly) thinks she is bitchy and spoiled, plus he remembers a time when Jennifer was not so nice to her mother. He doesn’t exactly give her much of a chance at first, but then relents. Why he relents and is attracted to the rude and petulant is an unanswerable question.
The relationship between Conar and Jennifer is of the I hate you, let’s argue, let’s have sex variety. Character development was not in evidence with these two. Instead of talking, they mostly bickered, and their turnaround into the sack was too sudden. Part of the problem with the novel as a whole is that too much time is spent on this bickering part of their “relationship,” and not enough on the suspense.
This is the first book of Graham’s that I’ve read, so I’m not sure if her writing style in romantic suspense is the same as in her other books. Here, I found her style to be choppy, with dialogue so short and fast it made my eyes cross trying to keep up with it.
Since Long, Lean, and Lethal seems to be intended primarily as a suspense novel rather than romantic suspense, more time should have been devoted to the murders. Jennifer is never actually threatened until the last quarter of the book, and what’s behind the threats is a weak and tenuous link. Graham throws in too many red herrings, but the large cast of secondary characters is also too short on character development. As a result, I couldn’t have cared less who was actually the murderer, much less if Jennifer would be saved.
The redeeming character in this book is Abby, for whom the reader will feel sympathy in her battle with Parkinson’s disease and empathy in her concern for her irrational daughter.
Long, Lean, and Lethal had some potential, but the execution failed. Graham has sold millions of books, and made legions of fans, but so far I am not among them.