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Book Review: King of Paine by Larry Kahn

December 16, 2011 5 comments

Sillhouette of a woman in front of Atlanta skyline.Summary:
Frank Paine was a Hollywood A-list leading man until he let the woman he loved deal with a BDSM scandal in the news on her own, thereby destroying her career and saving his.  The guilt got to him, so he ended up leaving Hollywood and joining the FBI in an effort to bring justice to the world.  His first case in the Rainbow Squad, however, involves not child rape or molestation but adult, BDSM style rape-by-proxy, and his ex-girlfriend is a suspect.  Meanwhile, a former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who’s been drowning his sorrows in alcohol finds himself swept up into the life of Angela del Rio and and discovering rumors of a place called The River.

Review:
I’m of two minds about this book.  I felt the need to find out what happened in the end, but I also didn’t enjoy the meat of the story very much.  It’s kind of like when you find yourself watching a marathon of The Biggest Loser and wondering why, exactly, it matters to you who gets voted off when the show get so many nutrition and exercise facts wrong and why exactly are the competitors cut off from their family anyway?  Actually, it’s exactly like that.

Kahn builds suspense well.  He’s clearly paid attention to just how much and how often to ramp up the violence and intrigue to keep a reader reading.  I also appreciated the two separate story-lines that then intertwined.  Of course, the reader knows they’re going to intertwine, but how is not immediately obvious.  That was a nice touch.

Kahn also moves smoothly between real life dialogue and the chats on an online BDSM website that are a key part of the investigation. It was definitely crucial to a modern story to include the internet, and he switches between real life and the internet quite well.

That said, other crucial parts of telling a story fell flat for me.  Kahn does not write women well.  On looking back, it is evident that women in his story are divided into the classic dichotomy of angel or whore.  There is no real room for three-dimensional characterization, making mistakes, or understandable motivations.  For instance, Paine’s ex goes from calling her brother to threaten to kill him to getting back together within a week.  That’s, um, fast?  Similarly, although Kahn slips back and forth easily between Paine’s and Roger’s perspective, he never shows any of the women’s perspectives, even though they are the ones being raped, beaten, tricked, used, and abused.  I can understand using the perspective of an FBI agent, but why couldn’t the second perspective have been Angela instead of Roger?  Or why couldn’t he have made the reporter a woman?  Regardless, none of the women in the story were believable, real characters.

Similarly, I was ultimately disappointed with who the perpetrator of the crime ultimately is.  Without spoiling it, suffice to say the choice is stereotypical, bordering on racist.  It was a choice lacking in creativity or sensitivity.

Overall, although the suspense reeled me in, the content of the story left me with a sour taste in my mouth.  I suppose if you want a junk food style suspense, or if the negatives I pointed out wouldn’t bother you, you may enjoy this book.  Those looking for thought-provoking, realistic suspense should look elsewhere, however.

3 out of 5 stars

Source:  Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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