Thursday, June 29

Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Sidney Sheldon

Review by Pat Brown

This is a really bad book. So bad it's almost entertaining. And I'm quite sure Mr. Sheldon isn't at all concerned. I'm sure he laughed all the way to bank with this one.

Now the funny part: it was really bad but I wanted to read to the end anyway. Why? One, I wanted to know exaclty what the bad guy had done in his quest for world domination. (Why is it always world domination? What would really be so great about ruling the world?) This bad guy, Tanner Kingsley is a billionaire psychopath willing to destroy anybody (including his own brother) to be at the top. He's a real scenery chewer without a single redeeming quality.

You better bring a truck load of suspension of disbelief with you to wade through the excesses here. Kingsley apparently already has absolute power over the world through the Internet and various tools he's built over the years. He can casually destroy someone's credit and make their money disappear, he knows when ever one of his victims calls his company anywhere in the world. He has access to airplane reservation databases, can have NYPD homicide detectives transferred at will and apparently has no problems suborning the entire New York taxi fleet. At least that's the only explanation I can think of to explain how the 2 women he's trying to track down leave La Guardia airport and catch a random cab out front to take them to Kennedy and the cab driver calls Kingsley to let him know where the women are. And the cabbie must recognize them, since neither woman gives their name. So in the space of a couple of days at most Kingsley got the photographs of 2 women out to ever taxi driver who services the airports and bribed them to turn the women in when they showed up. What does this guy need world domination for? He's already got it.

And the women! Well, Sidney Sheldon has made his reputation writing about strong, wily woman who make their own way in the world. Their always gorgeus, naturally and usually rich, though sometimes the money comes from a wealthy and adoring husband. The women here are no exception. One, Kelly, is a supermodel (note, not just a model, but a super model) who marries a nerdy scientist.  Their love for each other transcends all boundaries and he cures her of her frigid state (she was raped as a child) in one night by doing absolutely nothing.

The other woman, Diane, is a world renown artist (natch) who also marries a scientist, though hers is debonair and worldly. Neither marriage is ever marred by fights, or harsh words or the kind of normal complaints that all relationships fall heir to - stop leaving the toilet seat up, stop dumping your dirty clothes all over the floor, put you dirty dishes away, rinse out the shower after you use it... no, with these couples it's all 'darling' this and 'honey' that with every sentence. Gag me.

The story opens with the two scientist husbands being killed, along with two other scientists. All work for the Kingsley environmental think tank, KIG. Apparently Kingsley's dream of world domination is about to come to fruition, so in a fit of pure genius, he kills the scientists who got him there. Umm, what if something doesn't work? What if there's a tiny little bug in the process that needs one of those dead scientists to fix it? But then of course these guys were all geniuses, what could possibly go wrong?

Every aspect of the women and their relationship with their husbands is told in flashback. In fact, you can't read more than a few pages before Sheldon throws you back in time as one character or another remembers in excruciating detail about something in their past. Characters in the middle of fleeing for their lives will suddenly be catapulted into the past.

There's no hint at all what the great scientific breakthrough is or how it will give Kingsley absolute power until the very end. Which is about the only reason I kept on reading. Once it is revealed, all Kingsley plans to do with it is blackmail world leaders into giving him billions of dollars. My head filled with visions of Dr. Evil, pinky raised, cackling 'You will pay me one billion dollars'. The problem never mentioned and one that was a big plot hole for me, is that whenever Kingsley uses his 'world domination weapon' he throws a country's economy into a tailspin. How long will his billions be worth anything if he keeps on using it?

Can I, in good faith, recommend this book to others? No. I can't. If you want a good thriller pick up Michael Crichton, David Balducci or Douglas Preston. They know how to tell a believable story with realistic characters.

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