Monday, October 11, 2010

Dissection: A Date You Can't Refuse

Several years ago, I stumbled across the books by Harley Jane Kozak featuring sleuth Wollie Shelley. The books are only released about every two to three years, and I requested a copy of the latest, A Date You Can't Refuse, from my library before it released. That was in 2009. Early 2009.

Fortunately, I'm the patient sort, and I finally got my copy a few weeks ago, just before I went on vacation, which gave me ample time to devour the book.

In earlier books, it's made clear that Wollie (short for, I believe, Wollstonecraft) is a woman in her 30s, unmarried, and is feeling the pressure of a ticking biological clock. By the third book, she finally has gotten into a relationship with FBI agent Simon Alexander. This one seems to be lasting, except for the fact that he's on a long-term undercover assignment. Recipe for conflict!

Wollie, in the latest offering, has been offered a job by Yuri Milos, whom she knows because she sat on the jury of a trial in which he was the defendant. After the trial is over, she's offered the job, and shortly after that, one of Simon's associates approaches her about accepting the job in order to feed them information. Simon knows nothing of this. And when he finds out she accepted a job with the notorious Milos... well, let's just say he was less than happy.

Our heroine needs the money and some of the benefits that are being used to lure her into accepting the spying aspect by the FBI, however. And although she's not good at lying, she finds she must learn to do so in order to do her jobs.

Can't you see how this situation is ripe for conflict? I sure did! Even while I was in the middle of reading the book, I couldn't help but think that it would make a good book to use for a book dissection post. Of course, all fiction must have some conflict, but it seemed to me that Wollie was dogged by it every sentence of every page.

While the relationships in the book are important (it's a series--isn't that what most series are really about, the relationships?) the mystery holds its own. The two deaths in the book happen off screen, so to speak, starting with the woman who held Wollie's job previously, then her boyfriend, who was convinced that his girlfriend was murdered. Until the end of the book, you're never quite sure why the girlfriend was killed, and there were enough hints that while you may be able to put the puzzle together, you need quite a few pieces in order to do so.

What I learned:

Conflict, conflict, conflict. That was probably the key thing I learned in this book, that it needed to be EVERYWHERE. Okay, maybe not learned (I know this--I've been writing fiction for over 15 years.) But, it was definitely reinforced. From the time Wollie's approached by Yuri until she has her confrontation with the murderer, she's in conflict with someone. Simon, her brother, her friends, herself, Yuri, people she works with both in the civilian job and in the FBI--it's everywhere. And she needs to be able to lie, and feels physically incapable of pulling it off!

I also could see the value of having good resources to go to. Ms. Kozak obviously had to be speaking with a lot of people to pull this book off, and her acknowledgments page supports this. While she doesn't name everyone's role in helping her book, the names list is quite exhaustive. Looks like I'll be making some calls soon to do further interviews and tours! And tapping some of the online-human resources I've made over the years...

As a reader, I'd recommend this book if you enjoy works by Janet Evanovich. While not as crazy as the Stephanie Plum world, I'd say that Wollie's got quite a nutty world to live in.

Until next time,


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