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Hell Hath No Fury
on February 5, 2010
Miami News crime reporter Britt Montero investigates the death of a naked woman found in the surf on Miami Beach. She is eventually identified as Kaithlin Jordon, the wife of R.J. Jordon, the worthless scion of the Jordon Department Store chain. Nine years earlier, R.J. was charged, convicted, and sent to death row, for Kaithlin's murder. Obviously, when her body shows up, freshly dead, R.J. is released from prison. That's the setup. The rest of the novel unravels why she disappeared, why she returned, and who murdered her.
"You Only Die Twice" is a well-constructed, well-paced, mystery novel with plenty of twists. Not only do "facts" develop, but presumed motives also morph into different motives. As Britt becomes personally involved, the suspense rises.
While there is significant development of several female characters, I found them only mildly interesting. The most interesting relationship is that between Britt and her mother, NOT a theme which can raise much interest for male readers---no matter how well done.
Even more-so than Buchanan's earlier novels, "You Only Die Twice" is a "girly" novel. By that, I mean that all significant relationships are female-female, and the tone of the novel is hostile toward the male sex. Yes, Britt has male friends---but the relationships at best are shallow.
Most of the male characters are loathsome--R.J. particularly. Even so, I find it inconceivable that Kaithlin could hate him so thoroughly as to let him be executed for her faked death. And we the readers are supposed to commiserate with her and admire her, a devoted mother with small children? Not me. Not ANY heterosexual guy. Okay, I know that the female psyche is capable of pursuing revenge to extreme lengths, vastly exceeding the original offense. For guys that's scary. Even scarier is that most female readers will not judge Kaithlin as evil. THAT fact gives me the screaming jeebies.
For those new to Edna Buchanan, nearly every Buchanan novel is better than the last one. She eventually gets over whatever turned her against men, and the novels get better. I suggest starting with the most recent novel and working your way backwards, perhaps stopping before getting to "You Only Die Twice".
Note that the Jordon department store reference is to "Jordon Marsh" which once was a superb department store chain in South Florida (and a Boston division), but now is only history.
Unfortunately, the solution is "a rabbit pulled out of the hat". The characters involved suddenly change character 180 degrees. And moreover the ending is a downer, i.e., unsatisfying. Both of those are poor story telling techniques and with a star deducted for each.
While technically a well constructed mystery novel (except for the ending), this is NOT one that I'll put back on the shelf to re-read in a few years. I rate it as 3 stars from a guy's point of view, probably 4 stars for women readers.