Monday, April 02, 2012

Review: Deadly Pleasures

Title: Deadly Pleasures
Author: Mary Firmin
Genre: Murder Mystery
Price: $3.03 (Kindle) / $ 14.78 (paperback) 304 pages
Publisher: iUniverse
ISBN: 978-1462042371
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Cheryl Anne Gardner

I wouldn't have normally picked this book to read or review. Man titty covers really turn me off, and this cover really isn't representative of the story. I was thinking sexy pulp romance, but the romance is really only a small part of the murder mystery plotline, so I was pleasantly surprised.

I met Mary over on Goodreads. We had both signed our books up for the book review program, and we got to talking on the subject of BDSM in fiction. I decided to buy the book because the treatment of the subject matter is so polar opposite from the way I handle it in my book The Thin Wall, where I explore sexual subculture amongst consenting adults in a romantic setting. It's just one element in a loving relationship shared by five long time friends. In Ms. Firmin's novel, the subculture is the demented backdrop and the underlying pathos behind a series of sexually violent murders, explored through the eyes of homicide detective Matt Donovan. In this story, the BDSM is treated as a symptom of psychosis, and the brief jaunts into this world are dark and seedy reminiscent of the movie 8MM, though not as graphic, so potential readers do not have to worry about the "ick" factor.

This is what I like to call one of those "more money than common sense" scenarios. Megan Riley, our main character and heroine, is a recovering addict. She's struggling in a depressed real estate market, and her engagement to fellow drunk and drug addict Brian has ended. Her friends, the rich housewives of Bayside, like to spend time on their husbands' yachts, bitching that their husbands are philandering a-holes, which they are. They decide one day, much to Megan's disbelief, that they deserve something on the side as well, eventually hiring stripper Michael Harrington to service a variety of their personal needs. A bunch of wealthy women sharing a boytoy?! Who doesn't see problems on the horizon with that one?

While these women are wrapped up in their own little lifestyles of the rich and famous worlds, women are being tied up, hacked up, and murdered, and all leads point detective Matt Donovan back to the Bayside Yacht club. Things get really heated when a Senator's daughter winds up dead in her own little love dungeon.

Murder mystery readers will find a lot of familiar tropes here, and so it will be quite easy to sympathize with the characters. Again, reminiscent of the movie 8MM, we have a snuff film -- although in this plot line it was inadvertently made -- we have blackmail, escort services, porn peddlers, and we have the troubled heroine who falls in love with the handsome detective and manages to get herself into all kinds of tight spots. We also have a very brief look into the BDSM subculture as our detective takes a walk on the wild side through L.A.'s bondage parlors and hidden sex clubs, trying to catch a killer. However, all this is written very voyeuristically. A momentary peep through the peephole, so sensitive readers do not have to worry about graphic content. Even the one small sex scene is left off the page. I would liken it to an extended version of the TV show Criminal Minds, and anyone who enjoys murder mystery crime shows like that will find this book a light enjoyable read with just enough thrills to keep a reader engaged without being overwhelming.

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