"Murder Game," Christine Feehan

Pros: Great plot; interesting characters
Cons: Left me with a bad taste in my mouth
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.

 

The GhostWalkers are highly-trained psychics who’ve also been altered on a genetic level. They were meant to be supersoldiers, trained to protect their country, but now it looks like they might be responsible for a horrific series of murders. Kadan Montague, one of the Ghost Walkers, is determined to prove them innocent before someone uses the excuse to terminate the program—permanently. The only problem is, he needs Tansy Meadows’s help to do it. She’s a psychic tracker, able to read objects and track serial killers. But her skills take a huge toll on her; she has no intention of helping him, and once he gets to know her, he’ll be even less willing than she is to put her life on the line.

 

The plot of Christine Feehan’s Murder Game is simple but effective: two teams of genetically enhanced psychics, one on each coast, are carrying out a series of pre-planned murders—for fun. For each portion of the kill they carry out correctly they get points, and the team with the most points wins. But every game needs a referee, and that’s where the plot gets interesting. Tansy has to tease apart the psychic threads attached to the murders without drowning in the minds of killers and victims. Her mind was designed to assimilate and process data faster than any normal detective could, but she has little time and she’s in a great deal of danger. The man who “created” her wants her back, and will kill anyone who stands in his way—even her adoptive parents, who might not be as innocent as they seem. And definitely Kadan, who finds himself swiftly falling for Tansy. The referee of the game has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve as well…

The murder game itself was fascinating, and I found myself wishing that the author had spent more time on it. For a plot that lends itself to action, the action of this book got broken up and slowed down by talk and introspection, some of which was rather repetitive. It was fascinating to watch the Ghost Walkers work together, particularly as this is the first Ghost Walker book that I’ve read.

However, I have one major reservation about this book, something that left a bad taste in my mouth when it was all over. First, let me make one thing clear. It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round; I get that. Some folks want to read fantasies about taming the bad boy, bringing the alpha male to heel, or even being submissive to a dominant man; that’s their choice. What I don’t like is when an author gussies it up to try to make it all socially acceptable, as though they have to defend that fantasy and make it “justifiable.” And that’s how this book comes across, in a really big way. Kadan is extremely domineering, and while Tansy has just enough spine for the author to be able to say, “see? She’s a strong woman, really she is” (as Kadan and Tansy insist on pointing out to the reader on a number of occasions), one kiss from Kadan and she becomes “pliant” and “obedient” (yes, words used within a page of one another to describe Tansy’s reactions to Kadan at one point).

As recounted in the Cracked.com article, 7 Classic Disney Movies That Taught Us Terrible Lessons (NSFW language), with respect to everyone’s favorite Beauty and the Beast (all too appropriate to the premise of this relationship):

Underneath the abusive exterior of your man is a loving heart he’s just dying to share with you.

Her patience paid off, girls, and it will for you, too! If you just stick with it and don’t judge your man too harshly. Or call the cops.

Kadan might not be physically abusive, but he seems to come close to it a couple of times. And he does things that most people would NOT consider appropriate in a relationship, such as requiring Tansy to allow him to touch her provocatively in front of other people even when it embarrasses her. And it’s somehow supposed to be okay because she can read his mind and knows that he’s actually insecure and needy under it all.

Again, if you want to write a dominance/submission story for those people who enjoy such things, go right ahead. But damn well be honest about it—don’t dress it up and toss a dozen different justifications at it so you can pretend that isn’t what it is. As it is, this book left me with a sour feeling of blatant authorial manipulation of the reader, and that’s no fun at all.

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  1. […] with meticulous detail. The characters—whether human or not—have depth and style. Where some books do a poor job of trying to pair up a highly dangerous and dominant male with a strong female, […]

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