Sunday, 12 June 2011

Dark Jenny: Eddie Lacrosse 03 by Alex Bledsoe

From The Week of April 17, 2011

While The Sword-edged Blonde, the novel that kicked off the Eddie Lacrosse series, will keep its place in my affections, it's time for me and Eddie to part ways. For while Dark Jenny takes a more heartfelt stab at pleasing its readers with an engaging plot, the novelty of crossing sword-and-sorcery fantasy with a detective mystery has, unfortunately, worn thin, leaving the flaws of this third Lacrosse adventure naked to the world.

For Eddie Lacrosse, a sword-skilled private investigator, life has been fairly rough of late. If his girlfriends aren't in peril, then royal friends are calling upon him for aid, or damsels are getting him in trouble, or dragons are trying to singe him to a crisp. Fortunately, then, the latest drama to darken Eddie's door comes in the form of a coffin, which arrives, care of Eddie Lacrosse, at the tavern out of which the sword jockey runs his business. But rather than the opening salvo in some dark and painful episode, the coffin sparks a memory which turns into a long and winding yarn Lacrosse weaves for his friends over an afternoon of ales. The story concerns a distant civil war that pitted the noble and the corrupt against one another in a clash for the future of a realm. Lacrosse was caught up in these epic events when, after being arrested under the mistaken assumption that he was involved in a plot to kill the beautiful queen Jennifer, he was forced to win his freedom by first convincing his captors of his innocence and then working for them to uncover the identity of the true assassin. None of this is to Eddie's liking, but as events develop, as his life is threatened, as the fates of armies and citizens hang in the balance, he plunges himself into a tangled web of ruthless plots and royal secrets in hopes of finding, at the bottom, a truth that might save a kingdom.

All fiction asks its devourers to suspend some measure of disbelief in order to maximize reader enjoyment. Fair enough. But suspension of such disbelief does not extend to looking the other way while inanities of plot are perpetrated upon them. Lacrosse' attendance at the court function in which the attempted murder takes place, alone, is poorly explained, but it's made worse when he is inexplicably fingered for the crime just to generate, for the novel, enduring antagonists who can hold a non-sensical grudge against him, popping up every now and again to make Lacrosse's life difficult. More over, if you wanted to get to the bottom of a crime, would you hire one of the possible perpetrators of said crime to run its investigation? Doesn't seem likely. From here, matters don't much improve as Mr. Bledsoe pulls out at least two well-worn tropes of SF to provide the framework for a mystery bogged down in hopeless villains and stupendously heroic knights.

Dark Jenny is the literary equivalent of a day old bag of chips. There's still enjoyment in eating them, but their staleness can't be ignored. Mr. Bledsoe is still willing to shock his readers with occasional explosions of the dark intensity that made The Sword-edged Blonde throb with excitement, but these moments are few and far between in a predictable and tired tale. (2/5 Stars)

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