Playing Dead by Jody E. Lebel

This is an action packed short-novel, aimed primarily at a female audience. I actually enjoyed it very much, despite my genitalia. The plot revolves around a fairly classic shake-down for money, with enough invention to be interesting and enough tension to be gripping. Actually, the plot was perhaps more convincing because the details of brutal excesses were left to one’s imagination. Many authors pack in so much gratuitous blow by blow violence that the balance of the story can be lost. Books like this show us that there is something to be said for leaving readers some freedom to pour in the quantity of blood they require. This is of course equally true of sexual content. If the male hero has a rather overplayed touchy feely side for me to easily identify with then this only provides a bit of balance to all the bloodthirsty books I have so often read. Yes, you must bear in mind that I am not a regular reader of romance. I will not attempt to deny that I have all sorts of built in prejudices against the genre.

All the female characters are very well rounded and totally believable. The only character in the book that doesn’t quite fit together is the male exchange student. He provides a good twist to the plot, but his naivety about the life-style of North Americans is possibly overplayed. One small flaw that may well only reside in my head is hardly serious, amongst such a great cast. In my opinion Lebel has a particularly observant eye on male bad eggs. Perhaps that is simply because bad egg is the default form.

Despite fashionable brevity Lebel packs plenty in, this is a there aren’t very many wasted words. Her feel for dialogue is particularly good, and has a lot to do with making this such a good read. For those who like to know there is a 66,000 word count. I am not against the conclusion that it seemed so short to me simply because I enjoyed it so much.

Romance is the broad genre, but this book has enough non-romantic action to keep a wide variety of readers happy. I might call it a gritty, police drama, romance. Lebel has built some very interesting characters, some of which have huge scope for further development, which makes me wonder whether any of them are going to emerge again. It would be a waste if they didn’t.


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