Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Naked Jacqueline Kirby

Jacqueline Kirby is back for the final time in Naked Once More. For her last murder mystery, Kirby has settled with becoming the popular, bestseller author of two books. Her ex-librarian days are behind her, and it’s time to keep her winning momentum with a third book. She has ideas. She has potential drafts.  She has the will. However, she’s not 100% sure of her direction, until her literary agent calls her for lunch to discuss a project that may be worth her efforts.

Kathleen Darcy collected millions off her debut novel, Naked in the Ice. From her publisher's advance, a movie deal, and heavy promotion, she’s created just enough wealth to take care of her family.  This also provides her leeway (as well as pressure) to start on her second novel. With an outline partially at hand, matters seem promising until a string of "accidents" start to happen to Kathleen. Accidents so frequent that Kathleen soon finds herself driven over a cliff.  Her body unfound, the locals and her family label her fate as suicide.

Seven years later, Kathleen’s agent, family, and family attorneys have come together to audition and interview a few popular authors for the task of completing Kathleen's second book. And that's where Jacqueline Kirby’s agent shoots her the idea of taking a part in the auditions. It would be perfect for Jacqueline’s career–so he says. While it took some heavy convincing to the forever cynical Jacqueline, she eventually nails the project.  Afterwards, she decides to temporarily relocate to Kathleen’s town to dig into the late author’s files, and uncover everything she needs to produce the sequel properly. Unfortunately, a stream of accidents begins to happen to Jacqueline as well. Accidents meant to stop Jacqueline from uncovering some of Kathleen’s secrets. On the other hand, maybe something else entirely.

Let me just go ahead and get into what bothered me about this one–only because it’s the last in a series and the one that disappointed me the most. Just dive right into my problems here, considering anyone keeping up with my blog has already listened to me gush about my love of Jacqueline Kirby.

As I've stated, this is the end of the road for Jacqueline Kirby. It’s the fourth and last; released in 1989, it's been a whooping seventeen years since her 1972 debut. And sadly, it’s also the worse book in my opinion. 

Peters’ methods are still the same.  She tosses in an eccentric blend of remarkably peculiar characters that double as suspects whom Jacqueline trade barbs with before she concludes who’s the killer in whatever particular case. Only the characters/suspects in Naked Once More weren't anywhere near the oddballs of previous books. They couldn't touch the group of twisted, manipulative students in book one, The Seventh Sinner.  They certainly couldn't hold a candle to the Richard III fanatical household that possessed the second book, The Murders of Richard III.  Nor could they compete with the wild (this was probably one of the best castings) group of romance writers, readers, editors, and columnist who shook up book three’s Die For Love. Hear me when I say that those three books did ensemble, character, and the suspect-well ever so comical and cleverly. And I say that especially concerning how these blends of kooky characters engaged with the equally eccentric and opinionated Jacqueline.

Sadly, Naked Once More just didn’t do it quite the same. It was almost as if the steam blew out of the series somewhere in four years between books three and four.  Or maybe, like Jacqueline, Peters' publishers pushed her to write a fourth book. Nonetheless, the cast of Naked Once More was plentiful, but they only really populated the pages. They never shook–or took. I left the book feeling little to remember them by, behavior or otherwise. However, there were two characters I did like and was sad they didn't show up often enough to save me from the boredom. One was a rival of Jacqueline’s for Kathleen’s sequel. The other was Kathleen’s precocious pre-teen niece (ala Emma Graham and Flavia De Luce).

Much like the cast, the story itself was a dull trek of a mystery. While it is a murder mystery, an actual murder doesn’t take place until very late in the book. Now you could count Kathleen missing in part, but it’s there where Jacqueline is mostly meandering around almost as if waiting on something to happen.  This left me bored for sort of spark in the plot to take off. So in turn, it felt like nothing was happening in Naked Once More.  Just a going through the motions scenario, even though Peters' subtle snark aimed at the literary and publishing field was present as usual. Nevertheless, this made for a slow, often disengaging, read.

However, I did find upsides, mainly in my love of Jacqueline herself. She’s still the same here–though a touch dimmer than previous entries. Her mouth is still sharp; same as her observational skills. She’s determined. She’s tactless. And she’s still one of my favorite female sleuths. It’s just disappointing that her last chapter was a letdown, but probably an appropriate ending to the series. She went from an ex-librarian to a best-selling author. I consider that a win.  

Seeing there hasn't been a Jacqueline Kirby book since 1989, I would wager to say that Peters' was probably done with Jacqueline long before she wrote Naked Once More.  At least it appeared that way after I turned the last page.

I'll miss Jacqueline with her chain-smoking and unfiltered mouth.

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