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Monday, August 21, 2006


*** Naked Came the Phoenix, by Nevada Barr, J. D. Robb, Nancy Pickard, Lisa Scottoline, Perri O'Shaughnessy, J. A. Jance, Faye Kellerman, Mary Jane Clark, Marcia Talley (who also edited), Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon, Val McDermid, & Laurie R. King. Mystery.





Sometimes, when a book has been in my TBR pile for a long time, I kick myself for waiting so long to read it. I've had Naked Came the Phoenix for 5 years, and as far as I'm concerned, I might as well have left it in the TBR pile for another 5.

Naked Came the Phoenix is a serial novel--each author writes one chapter, building on what went before, but without collaborating with the other authors. Reading the book with that in mind is the only way to enjoy it. It starts out with senator's wife Caroline Blessing and her ambitious mother going to a spa owned by an old acquaintance of her mother's. The spa is populated with a variety of the rich and famous--an aging rock star, a young supermodel and her manager, a famous movie star, etc. Then the owner of the spa is killed, and in true Agatha Christie fashion, it seems everyone has a potential motive.

I'd been warned that the story started slow, then picked up with the second chapter, written by J. D. Robb. I took this with a grain of salt, since it came from Nora fans, but found it to be absolutely true. The first chapter was excruciatingly dull. The second chapter was, indeed, more lively, and the characters developed actual personalities. But that faded away, as subsequent chapters focused more on introducing new plot twists and all too often either ignoring or contradicting what happened in previous chapters.

As a mystery, it falls flat because of the contradictions--for example, several characters' ages seemed to change from chapter to chapter, a real problem because age was a clue to one of the mystery threads. Another one was the disposition of the spa--in one chapter, a character had purchased enough shares in the company to be the owner anyway, and in the next chapter, it became a matter of inheritance instead.

But what was fun was looking at it from outside the story, imagining the authors rubbing their hands in glee, saying "let's see what you do with this!" while scrambling to deal with the twists the previous authors had handed them.

I bought Naked Came the Phoenix as soon as it came out, because I'm a fan of two of the authors: J. D. Robb and Diana Gabaldon. I've since become a fan of Laurie R. King as well, so I'd had, if not high hopes for the book, at least higher hopes. Still, it completes three author's collections (I'm pretty sure I have all of King's books--the paperbacks, at least), and the purchase did benefit breast cancer research, so I'm not sorry I bought it.

...more

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