Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: A Wanted Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey (ADULT)

Title: A Wanted Woman
Author: Eric Jerome Dickey
Genres: Thriller, African American, Action, Crime
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: ZoĆ« Bell & Dominic Hoffman
Length: 14 hours & 26 minutes
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Book Club Selection: May Book of the Month -- Mocha Girls Read

She is a woman of a thousand faces, an assassin who could be anyone, anywhere.

The Trinidad contract was supposed to be simple: to make a living man become a dead man. When the job goes bad under the watchful eye of a bank security camera, there is nowhere for agent MX-401, known as Reaper, to hide from the fearsome local warlords, the Laventille Killers.

Her employers, the Barbarians, send her to Barbados, the next island over, barely two hundred miles away, with the LK’s in hot pursuit of the woman who took many of their own. With the scant protection of a dank safe house, no passport, and no access to funds, an island paradise becomes her prison.

While she trawls for low-profile assignments to keep her skills sharp and a few dollars in her pocket, Reaper discovers that family ties run deep, on both sides of the fight. Will the woman everyone wants, who has lived countless lives in the service of others, finally discover who she really is?

In A Wanted Woman, New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey delivers an adrenaline-pumping rush of a read.

FIRST IMPRESSION:: Had this book not been required reading for my book club, I never would have picked this up. I approached with extreme prejudice, thinking this was going to be a romance novel with a dash of mystery and a pinch of action and suspense. I was wrong dead wrong -- on an epic proportion. This was probably the bloodiest, goriest and the most crude books I have ever encountered. Definitely the most racist and misogynistic. So much so, that it was hard to enjoy.

THE STORY:: Overall, this book was insane. There was no good guy to root for. The female protagonist, Goldie aka MX-401, was an awful human being. I found nothing redeeming about her. Her every reaction is fueled by anger, and never for the right reasons. She never treated anyone with any level of respect yet demanded it from everyone. Always condescending, too hard, and too cruel. She's just as sadistic as her targets.

What I really didn't like was how one-dimensional she is. Even with her complex ethnic background and her complicated past, she fell flat. It  didn't add anything to her character, it did not give her relatable insecurities, or seem to have any effect at all. Her every thought and action screamed, "don't fuck with me. If you do, you die." If an author wants me to get behind their bad-ass character, they have to give me something to root for. I get that she's an assassin; but in this book, that's all she was. 

Even as a child, she was represented as harsh, cruel and a little too worldly. Goldie was jaded from day one; I got no glimpse into a happier younger girl and she didn't turn into a more well-adjusted adult. She was a bitter, angry and jaded preteen  who turned into an even more bitter, violently angry and sadistically jaded grown woman. This is a major problem for me; because frankly, I kind of hate her. When the "bad guys" are after her or calling her a crazy bitch, I don't sympathize. I wanted someone -- anyone -- to knock her down a few pegs.

Goldie just doesn't feel real. Even James Bond -- who's been kicking ass for decades -- mellows out with a shaken martini and beds hot women. Goldie just says tense, stays pissed and kills people. No hobbies, no relaxation, no casual sex. She's just too Mrs. Hannigan for me; the literal "kill, kill, kill”. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a book that gave me so many reasons to hate the main character.

Now that I'm done ranting about the lead, I can talk about the plot. Oh, the plot. Where for art thou...? This story dragged on... and on... and on and gave very little. I was beyond frustrated with the pace of this book and how slowly it revealed vital information. For a story that was overflowing with violence, aggression and death, the scenes that would explain why the violence and death were actually occurring were given out very far and few between. And when all is finally revealed, at the last minute mind you, it's predictable. I feel cheated. Nothing was ever fully explained. But hey, if that was a writing device to make us feel just as in the dark as MX-401 herself, mission accomplished. More likely, it's a setup for the next book.

I think the writing style was interesting. At first, I thought it was too clipped and delivered with a rapid-fire pace. But then, it fit with Goldie so I didn't mind. The chapters where it wasn't told from her perspective were more precise. By the time I got to the end, I didn't notice.

FINAL THOUGHTS:: Something very strange happened by the time this audiobook wound down to it's final minutes. Somewhere in the middle of all the crazy, it got to me. I can't even explain how or why. Do I care about MX-401 now that it's over; no. Would I like to hear more of her story; oddly, yes. Maybe it's curiosity because I didn't learn enough. Maybe it's because I finally got the meat I was looking for. Not sure. Plenty of people have said you don't have to like the main character to be interested in the story and I never really got that; now, I understand. 

RECOMMENDED FOR:: If you like your story with non-stop action and aren't too squeamish, give it a whirl. Otherwise run far, far away.

I am a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, so I recognized Zoe Bell's name immediately. She's from New Zealand -- making her literally born for this role. She's also a stunt woman who was featured in Tarantino's Grindhouse/Death Proof; that would on top of the car...

She was Lucy Lawless's double for Xena: Warrior Princess. So -- perfect casting. While I may not have loved MX-401, I do think she brought life to this crazy character. Would I pick up her next audiobook on merit alone -- absolutely!

I think Dominic Hoffman was the perfect choice for the second voice. His side of the story was delivered in more of an observational narrative which I appreciated.

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