The Jinx by Jennifer Sturman
(Red Dress Ink, $12.95,PG-13) ISBN 0-373-89540-2
***
Rachel Benjamin is a winner and her life can't get any better. She's got a great boyfriend, an awesome job, access to a limo and did I mention the great boyfriend? Who has time to worry about the Jinxing Gods when life is this good?

Of course a little hubris goes a long way in Rachel's life. No sooner is she feeling secure than the rug comes flying our from under her. Her week in Boston was supposed to be about a bit of recruiting, a little reuniting with her pals and a lot of romance. Suddenly she's investigating an attack on her client Sara, holding off a takeover and wondering why Peter is spending his time with another woman. This is anything but a relaxing break from high finance.

It seems there's a strangler running around Boston. No not that strangler, a new one, this one targets prostitutes and uses a Harvard scarf. A scarf much like the one Sara's professor wears - but then again, so do most of the men on campus. But after a strange series of events, both the police and Rachel think Sara's stalker and the strangler may be one and the same. The problem is that the most likely suspect just happens to be Rachel's Plan B of love, one Professor Jonathon Beasley. So, it's up to Rachel to save Sara's company, her neck and her own love life. That's quite a list for a girl to fit in her aging Blackberry.

If it sounds confusing, that's because it is a bit. Sturman has several subplots going on here, and several possible culprits. While the mysteries themselves are quite easy for the reader to figure out, Sturman does add in a few red herrings, which Rachel easily falls for. And as such, she ends up being one of those horrid heroines who cry wolf at the wrong time and inevitably trust the wrong men. I know I found myself frustrated with her "investigating" techniques throughout most of the book. Sure, she's an amateur, but she was missing a lot of obvious stuff and jumping to way too many conclusions. Her half-cocked investigation was enough to take me out of the story and make me roll my eyes a few times.

But, aside from her sleuthing, Rachel was an interesting character. Sure, she lost me when she was playing girl detective, but I admired the way she just flat out approached her suspects. It just would've been nice if she'd done the same to the boyfriend. Then again, that was part of the character's charm. She's a self-possessed kick-butt businesswoman, a brave detective, but a coward at romance. Like a lot of woman, her self-confidence goes flying out the window when it comes to love. It's a bit off-putting to see such a strong split in her personality but it makes for a very complex character.

I also admired Rachel's sense of humor. Sure she makes tons of money and lives a lifestyle that's a bit excessive, but she does so with flair. Rachel isn't just the type of girl to own a Blackberry, she's the type to throw it against the wall, and then wonder why it isn't working. Her temper, her spunk and her can-do attitude make Rachel a very likable chick-lit heroine.

The second in the Rachel Benjamin series (following The Pact), The Jinx stands quite well on its own. Whether you're a fan of amateur sleuths, romance or chick-lit, The Jinx has something for you. It's a cute, quirky novel with enough twists to satisfy any mystery buff.

--Amanda Waters


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