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Book review: <i>A Dangerous Fiction</i> by Barbara Rogan

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the cover of the book

In the cut-throat world of publishers, literary agents, and authors, sometimes people get hurt. It's usually bruised egos, but for Jo Donovan, it's more... and it's quickly becoming murder. Can she figure out who's out to get her before she loses the plot?

The story

Jo Donovan was an ambitious young lady running from an unhappy childhood, and at the tender age of twenty two she met and married a much older man – and famous author, Hugo. Jo was his muse for over ten years when he died suddenly of a heart attack in Paris and left her alone to create herself a life without him. For Jo, Hugo was her life, and she was lucky to have his friends in New York to fall back on, to help her pick up the pieces.

Fastforward three years, and Jo Donovan is running a successful literary agency, which was bequeathed to her by her and Hugo's good friend Molly. Jo is young, beautiful, and a great business woman. While her agency isn't without petty internal problems, she has a lot of supportive friends and colleagues, knows a lot of writers, and really feels like her life is on track.

Until Sam Spade. An anonymous author insists she and he are meant to be, and he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants. Sinister things start happening in the agency, fraudulent mail-outs and email hacking. Then, one of Jo's friends is callously murdered, and it looks like a ploy to get Jo's attention. While she's trying to help solve the mystery, it doesn't help that one of the policemen in charge of the investigation is her ex.

During all this external pressure, a biographer insists on talking to her about a book about her late husband, Hugo. Jo wants to keep her marriage to herself, and her late husband firmly on a pedestal in her mind. But will the biographer reveal something that she didn't want to admit to herself? And can she finally get on with her life?

The style

Written in the first person from the point of view of Jo, the story moved pretty quickly, and as can be seen above from the plot synopsis, there was quite a bit going on. Sure, the story was linear, but there were facets and bits and pieces of things that didn't seem relevant and all tied in together nicely at the end. A Dangerous Fiction is certainly well plotted, and this makes it a page turner with the elements of suspense and a couple of decent twists worth waiting for.

I was, however, conflicted about the main character. Jo Donovan. You know what's good about her? She has a quality that my mate Tom and I spend countless hours discussing as an excellent characteristic of writing – she's a first person narrative who is also incredibly self-deluded. So she reveals things about herself to the reader that she doesn't realise she's revealing – it's the adage of showing not telling at its greatest and it is to great effect. And, let's be honest, it makes the reader feel complicit and like a smart arse because they get something that the protagonist doesn't. In this respect, the narrative is honest and well executed. But she, as a character... or person, if you like, I found really quite irritating. I was annoyed by her ego, how she pretended to be Jewish around her Jewish friends, the way she dressed and acted around men. All these facets were integral to the character, and she did grow as a person during the story which made her slightly more endearing. But still, in real life, me and Jo Donovan would never be friends.

This said, it is always a credit to the writing when you continue to read a book when the main character irritates you. So still, this is a good, well written story.

Who is this book for?

This is a fun, outlandish whodunit style murder mystery. It's a bit over the top, not terribly realistic, but a definitely a fun read. For when you don't want something heavy.

In short

Title: A Dangerous Fiction
Author: Barbara Rogan
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670026500
Year published: 2013
Pages: 336
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: