Sunday, April 23, 2017

Serial Date (Leine Basso #1), by D.V. Berkom (author), James Killavey (narrator)

DV Berkom, December 2013

Our protagonist is Leine Basso, former professional assassin.

The story is centered around a tv reality show, Serial Date, in which the pretty, young contestants are vying to become True Love of one of the shows "serial killer" hot guys. Of course, the men aren't really serial killers, because that would be way too dangerous and we can presume the insurance company nixed that. However, the young women don't know that until after they've signed the non-disclosure agreement, so we can take it as a given that they have neither standards nor any sense of self-preservation.

And of course a real serial killer is stalking the show.

Leine, now retired from the paid assassin business, is hired on as additional security after the first killing. She's called in by the current head security guy, Gene, whom she has worked with in the past. This was apparently in her later life as an insurance investigator, though are reasons why this seems unlikely, given facts revealed later.

We are supposed to like Leine, and understand that she was a professional assassin for good reasons. We are supposed to sympathize with her because her daughter, April, hasn't spoken to her in years, after she found out her mom was a professional killer, and one of her targets turned out to be someone they knew and liked. For some reason, April isn't interested in her mom's "explanation" of this...

But, in all honesty, Leine is hardly the worst character in the book. There's the real serial killer, of course, who hates actors, and really hates that Serial Date obviously isn't using real serial killers and isn't even accepting his helpful advice (via anonymous letters) on how to make them at least seem more realistic. Oh, and he's a cannibal. There's Senator Runyon, who is a major backer of the show for utterly cynical reasons, and is into barely-legal young women, and bestiality.. There's Peter, whose last name I can't remember, the show's producer, who is a great deal more concerned about how the killings will affect the show than about the young women being killed.

I suppose in fairness I should mention police detective Santiago Jensen, a good cop and a good detective, whose worst fault is that he's been very shallow in his relationships with women until now.

But really, there is no part of this story that is not sordid and distasteful. It's well-written. The characters are well-developed; they're just not people I wanted to spend this much time with. The plot is well-paced, and if there are a couple of continuity errors, it's nothing so big that I wouldn't easily forgive it in a book I liked better. My real objection is just how grim, sordid, distasteful this story and these characters are, and the fact that we're supposed to like Leine and sympathize with her over her daughter's very sensible rejection of her. In the fantasy genre, I'd call this "grimdark," and I think that term applies here, too.

But if you like dark, gritty, sordid thrillers, you'll probably like this.

Not recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook, and I am reviewing it voluntarily.