BY JANET EVANOVICH AND LEE GOLDBERG
AMBER LOVE 02-DEC-2014 For years, people recommended Janet Evanovich to me as an author I’d probably love since I get the most entertainment out of cozy mysteries but like a bit of action-adventure. I wasn’t finding much balance in my reading material. I do love the cozies but the heroines are often damsels in distress during the stories not the ones aggressively leading a pursuit. They’re women who have vocations like gardeners, bakers, journalists, and innkeepers. In THE JOB, the leading lady is an FBI agent. I can and will make tons of television comparisons because the book felt a lot like watching a really fun show or movie.
Evanovich is know for her popular STEPHANIE PLUM series that kicked off with ONE FOR THE MONEY that had an less than stellar movie adaption. I say that as someone who hasn’t read that series but the movie is in Netflix and I do want to see it despite whatever the critics said. My tastes don’t often align with mainstream critics. The point being, Evanovich has years of experience making leading female characters that people care about and that readers cheer for. In THE JOB, her leading character is KATE O’HARE who is partnered up with her confidential informant, not-quite-former art thief NICK FOX.
There’s no short way to describe the chemistry between O’Hare and Fox without making easy comparisons like Kate Beckett and Rick Castle from CASTLE or even the platonic duos like Burke and Caffrey on WHITE COLLAR. Due to the roles of FBI agent and art thief, WHITE COLLAR was often in my head while reading THE JOB. So was the sadly shortlived series KING AND MAXWELL starring one of my favorite actors REBECCA ROMIJN who I dare say, would make a perfect Kate O’Hare. Another TV couple that felt this way was Sophie and Nate on LEVERAGE and even Stirling and Nate when Sophie and Nate needed a common villain.
I’m not familiar at all with co-author LEE GOLDBERG’s novels or non-fiction but he did write for MONK, one of my all-time favorite detective shows. Goldberg also has two Edgar Award nominations. I scrolled through his bio and he’s definitely diverse. His credits include anything from mysteries to kids’ shows to eye candy like BAYWATCH. Being a TV writer means he knows how to collaborate at all levels (one would like to think anyway). If you’re wondering why Evanovich, an already successful solo writer would team up with a partner, I don’t have the firm answer but I guess, it’s probably a lot fun and rewarding for both of them to work ideas back and forth with each other.
My experience reading THE JOB was most likely different from other readers. I didn’t even know it was the third book of the O’Hare/Fox series. I was able to jump in and figure out the back story of the characters and their relationship based on how everything was narrated. My only disappointment, probably because of my unfamiliarity, was that I wanted the story to star Kate O’Hare instead of co-star with a predictable charming hot guy who would outshine her in all the scenes. That’s what I felt happened. Fox is too perfect. He dominates the partnership and relationship.
There’s a ton of implausibility that comes with fun fiction, especially spy fiction. Nick Fox is a CI for O’Hare but somehow her superiors at the agency don’t know. They fake their cat and mouse chases so that it looks like she’s still pursuing him as a criminal. She bends every rule at his whim too. It’s also strange that international art thefts aren’t handled by an agency like Interpol instead of the FBI. O’Hare being the “Fox expert” is the only thread that pulls her into the actual plot.
The first challenge is to solve who the mysteries of a Nick Fox impersonator that’s trotting the globe and stealing art. That case is a bit of a test and furthers the establishment that O’Hare and Fox are bound to be partners instead of on opposite sides. That case leads to another even bigger case which is where the meat of the adventure comes into play. There’s an epic scale grift pulled on a very bad man and his evil empire of henchmen. The female badass right-hand-person felt trope at this point as a lot of badass female characters do. It was something done to be unexpected with hopes that eventually the gender would go unnoticed. That’s not how it feels though. A badass woman against fierce do-gooder Kate feels hollow. That character Reyna Socorro, is basically like Harley Quinn to the Joker in the most evil and graphic versions of them (see Brian Azzarellos’s The Joker). Speaking lines for her aren’t necessary. She’s there simply to do the grotesque dirty work like torturing people. It’s one of the reasons I hate what SCANDAL did to their character Quinn; turning what started as an interesting female character into a hollow superfluous torture machine. A lot could be gained by removing the Reyna character and coming up with a better Number Two. I half expected the women to end up in their underwear during their fight scenes and I know authors who certainly would have done exactly that without a second thought. It kind of happens as Reyna takes a few opportunities to be naked and invite Kate to go skinny dipping while the machine gun rests at the side of the pool.
Another character that had no purpose was Alves. I don’t know why he was in the story at all. I think he was supposed to be a middleman. Instead I found myself wondering why O’Hare and Fox were hanging out with a man who likes to be in a room filled with heads and organs in jars. He was there for the creepiness but it didn’t work. Reyna was going to be the Big Bad in the creepy department so Alves was nothing but a second rate eccentric criminal.
What the book does well is set scenes and layout a fantastic con game. The book is filled with exotic cities and buildings. Then the con job O’Hare and her team have to pull on the big bad villain Violante, is elaborate and fun. There are problems with the team characters too. Clearly she and Fox need that many people with all these different areas of expertise to pull off the job, but you only get a glance at them. In the brief period they are feature, Kate’s father Jake is the most fleshed out proving you don’t need a lot of pages to make a fully formed character. Jake is well developed. We get a look at the relationship he has with his daughter and his over-the-top skills with weaponry. The rest of the team was unremarkable. Their inclusion at least means that since they have the potential to be interesting, they could wind up in other books and perhaps be explored further. They were in THE JOB specifically to do a task and then never get mentioned again.
This book has the opposite problem for me that I have with CASTLE. On CASTLE, it’s named for Rick, the best selling author. Throughout a few seasons, the story is all about Kate and Rick is a sidekick. He’s not boring but he doesn’t have an end game in sight except to eventually get the girl. In THE JOB, the sidekick is so dominating and he’s the charming male lead (as Rick Castle is) that the heroine doesn’t stand out enough or feel like she has purpose.
Because the book was an entertaining adventure, I recommend it if you like pulse-racing pursuits with fight scenes. There isn’t a lot of drama or tension. Catching the bad guy or failing to doesn’t propel either of the main characters forward. It’s not even a basic revenge theme since they go after Violante on someone’s behalf. You know what’s going to happen at the end. It’s what everyone who watches seemingly mismatched partners wants and it pays off on the final page.