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At first glance you might think you’ve heard this one before: You may be thinking Body Heat or The Postman Always Rings Twice, and you would be partly right – but partly wrong – oh, so wrong.
One very minor problem I had with the book is that some characters tended to “slip out of character” at times. Jared is supposedly thirty-something but when he injects social commentary lamenting the “good old days” he sounds like a much older guy. Also his reporter buddy Mickey Thompson is described as “…an aging yuppie, a product of boarding school, and an old school preppie.” But he sounds strongly blue collar/working class.
The main problem I had with this story is that the protagonists are not the least bit likeable or sympathetic and seem to be seriously lacking in any form of a conscience. That made it hard for me to care too much what happened to them. My first impression of Katherine was, “Gold-digger” and each new revelation about her only left me thinking, “Yep, gold-digger.”
Jared didn’t win any sympathy from me because he was too much of a sap. Okay, Katherine is supposedly mind-boggling beautiful and the opening chapters emphasize that Jared is head-over-heels about her. But before the ink has dried on her divorce decree she enlists Jared’s aid in a plot that would knock the rose-colored glasses off of any rational person. It takes the barest minimum of persuasion to get Jared onboard. Katherine never threatens or harasses him. The two haven’t become physically intimate yet. The only “seduction” she applies is a quick tongue darted in the ear and an occasional squeeze on the kneecap. Like I said, what a sap.
In a later revelation she portrays her husband as a monster and herself as a victim of sexual exploitation in order to gain Jared’s sympathy. However, she appeared to be all too willing to be exploited. Why? For money of course. And this sad story is told while she’s still living in her ex’s cushy Park Avenue apartment (until she can find her own place) drinking very expensive champagne with her new lover.
And if nothing else should give Jared pause – should scare the socks off of him, actually - it turns out that Katherine has an unnatural affection for guns. But then it occurred to me that this guy has been drinking non-stop throughout the first half of the story so maybe that better explains his astonishing lack of judgment.
In the second half of the story the author goes all Tom Clancy and takes a grave situation (a murder plot) and kicks it up ten or twelve notches; I honestly did not see that coming. Suddenly there were so many plot twists and turns I had to throw up my hands unsure what to believe or who the good guys or bad guys were.
Although I never warmed up to Katherine, she is the strength of this story. I thought it was very clever how the more intimate she becomes with Jared and the more she reveals about herself, the less you feel you know her. Once the plot kicked into high gear, I wasn’t even sure if her name was Katherine.
Manhattan Affair could have benefitted from more sympathetic characters, but I’m giving it three out of four stars because of its element of surprise and level of complexity.
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