Sharp Edges by Jayne Ann Krentz
(Pocket, $24.00, PG) ISBN 0-671-52310-4
***
Call me Pollyanna, but I was looking forward to reading JAK's latest, even after Deep Waters, a book I consider a fiasco. I'm surprised that I trusted her again. Well, she's back, and that's good and bad. Sharp Edges still has interchangeable characters, characters we've met before in one form or another . . . commuting characters as one person called them, and she still focuses on the mismatched hero and heroine. What keeps this story going is her characteristic sly humor, more in evidence in this story than in Deep Waters.

The story begins three years earlier. Our hero, a security consultant, has been shot by his partner, has had a priceless artifact stolen by the same partner and wakes up in the hospital only to be told that his wife has been killed in a car jacking attempt. But only he and we know that it wasn't a car jacking. It was the dastardly partner, Damian March, tying up loose ends.

Nowhere but in a JAK contemporary would we find protagonists with the affected names of Cyrus Chandler Colfax and Eugenia Swift, who, by the way, does NOT like to be called Genie. She's much more a Eugenia than a Genie anyway, not terribly easygoing or carefree. Eugenia is the director of an avant-garde glass museum in Seattle. A now-deceased collector has willed his rare collection of glass to Eugenia's museum, so she's going to his home on Frog Cove Island to catalog his collection.

Eugenia's boss, hearing rumors that the deceased collector may have been murdered, is insisting that private investigator Cyrus Chandler Colfax accompany her. They're the proverbial oil and water mixture. She's fashionably trendy and wears what Cyrus calls 'Cat burglar' black while he wears garish Aloha shirts. She's uptight and prissy; he's wonderfully laid back. She really doesn't want him to accompany her; she's got a hidden agenda. Surprise! So does he!

While Eugenia really does intend to catalog the collection, she wants to find out what happened to a good friend of hers, a friend who was involved with the dead man. The authorities say that her friend drowned at sea, which doesn't ring true to Eugenia. Cyrus wants to go because he finally has a lead on his old partner, Damian March, who might have been involved with the dead collector.

As soon as they arrive at Frog Cove Island, sinister events occur. The caretaker is found dead, but his death is not considered suspicious. The local law, Deputy Peaceful Jones, is married to the local doc, Dr. Meditation Jones, who, by the way, reads auras in addition to her medical training. With those names, we're lucky they ever left Haight Ashbury. Peaceful and Meditation don't suspect murder. We know better. When Eugenia and Cyrus reveal their hidden agendas, both are suspicious and distrustful of the other.

There's no doubt that this is a JAK book. It's set in the Pacific Northwest. It has eccentric main and secondary characters . . . who drink designer coffee. Said characters have unique (outlandish) names. One of them is usually a gourmet cook. Here it's Eugenia, who eats foods I've never heard of, literally. Cyrus is from the Cordon Bubba School of Cooking. He subscribes to the theory that there are more than 101 ways to serve canned tuna. We've got voguish, artsy secondary characters. JAK has given us three major love scenes, with a few teasers thrown in along the way. The only thing that differed in this story is that neither character ever mentions that there's no such thing as love. Neither feels unlovable. This is a fresh, positive change.

I read this book as an advance uncorrected proof. Yes, there were typos, grammatical mistakes, misspellings, syntax goofs: these will be smoothed out in the end. An annoying phrase that comes out of nowhere and is used repeatedly is "the ex-Damian March." We know that Cyrus' ex-partner is alive and thriving on a tropical island. We aren't told that he has a new identity, a new face, a new anything. Just that annoying phrase, the ex-Damian March, and it is used ad nauseam. It's used so illogically and abruptly that it breaks the flow. I hope a sharp editor catches this one and either eliminates its frequent use or gives us the reason why Damian is now the ex-Damian.

I haven't addressed several subplots. Most add interest to the story. Ms. Krentz could have enlarged on a personal one involving Cyrus' past. It could have really added to my understanding and appreciation of Cyrus. As it is, it feels incomplete. Also, the denouement is highly implausible. Big time implausible.

Actually, I enjoyed Sharp Edges. If you're a new reader of JAK, this is not a bad beginning. Cyrus is one of her best heroes ever. Eugenia, however, is a typical JAK character. There's really nothing new about this story. If you're a diehard JAK fan, you won't be disappointed. I really think I'd wait about ten months for the paperback to come out. Saving approximately twenty dollars might lessen the disappointment if this book seems familiar. And it will.

--Linda Mowery


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