Undead and Unemployed

Undead and Unwed

Under the Covers

Hello, Gorgeous!
by MaryJanice Davidson
(Brava, $14.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-7582-0804-9
With the energy of a demented terrier on speed, and about as much focus, this book offers equal parts entertainment and frustration. Ms. Davidson’s fans will no doubt be delighted with more of what they’ve come to expect from this unique author. Everyone else will likely go into sticker shock when they realize they’ve shelled out fourteen bucks for a book that’s the same length as a category novel. A short one.

Caitlyn James wakes up days after her twenty-fourth birthday in the facilities of the Office of Scientific Findings. The last thing she remembers is getting drunk with friends in a limo in Miami. She does not remember the crash that killed her.

The OSF brought her back to life and turned her into an extremely powerful “fully functional cybernetic organism” by injecting her with “nanobytes.” In return, The Boss of OSF wants her to become an assassin. When she declines, he is not happy to let her walk away and resume her life as a hairdresser.

After the OSF sends an armed “team” to capture her in a sushi restaurant, Caitlyn tries to make a deal: she’ll take on one extremely important job in exchange for her freedom. Armed with nothing more than her mouth and blowdryer, The Boss sends her to “neutralize” an 18-year-old hacker who’s been spreading viruses across the Internet, including one that fills people’s hard drives with porn. Caitlyn realizes the poor geek just needs to get laid. Instead of killing him, she gives him a fast boink (offstage, thankfully) while his mother’s out shopping, and he swears he’ll give up computer viruses forever now that he knows how much more entertaining sex is. Caitlyn apparently doesn’t know a lot of teenaged boys.

But The Boss is not done with her, and next sends her off to neutralize The Wolf, a rogue cybernetic organism who, The Boss suspects, is killing off the scientists behind the cybernetic organism project. Thinking she’s getting a trip to Paris out of the deal, Caitlyn heads out, but she doesn’t have to look far for her target. The Wolf is Dmitri Novatur, a Lithuanian hunk, and he finds Caitlyn – because he thinks she’s the rogue assassin.

Okay, for those of you who’ve never read MJD, we’re not going to talk about plot. In my experience, this author doesn’t ‘do’ plots, and isn’t the slightest bit concerned about whether or not her zany situations make sense, so you may as well just let it go. What she does ‘do’ is concept and voice. And what a big, rowdy voice it is. Very original, very entertaining and sometimes (but not always) very funny.

There are some problems with having such a distinctive voice, though. In Ms. Davidson’s case, one of the drawbacks is that all her heroines sound like the same person. If you have unlimited affection for this person, you’re in luck. Personally, I tend to love her for about seventy pages, and then I want her to grow up. And put a sock in it. Not necessarily in that order.

In the case of this book, Caitlyn is nicely balanced by the serious, slightly old-fashioned and very sexy Dmitri. This is also a character we’ve seen before in Ms. Davidson’s books, but I have a much higher tolerance for him, partly because he’s a lot more mature and charming than the heroine, and partly because he doesn’t yap like a Valley Girl on a caffeine jag.

And, while I love the energy, the story careens in and out of focus, making me long for a little more discipline. There’s a lot of head-hopping, a secondary romance that takes up space without contributing much to the story, and a primary romance that really doesn’t kick in until very late in the story because we’re too busy running in circles to get to it. And, while the relationship between Dmitri and Caitlyn sizzles (eventually), there’s not a lot of sex, which may not come as the best surprise to Brava customers.

In other words, this book is exactly what MaryJanice Davidson does. Love it or leave it.

-- Judi McKee

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