True North
by Beverly Brandt, contemporary (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97985-1


I'm so exhausted. I think I have mentally bonded with those poor beached whales along the coast of Denmark after reading Beverly Brandt's debut novel True North. It's not that bad, as in I can actually finish this book in one sitting without whimpering for anesthesia, but there's also so much happening here.

Claire Brown is a workaholic who is so self-absorbed that she actually follows her hubby-to-be and his new girlfriend all the way to Colorado without realizing that he's with someone else. Seriously. I bet this woman will still be shouting for a laptop long after a truck has run over her three times back and forth.

She also gets stuck with some problems with her credit card, causing her to sleep in a lousy small and low-class employees-only room instead of a super-duper five star hotel room. At this point, I wondering why can't she just pack up and head off to Maui while there's still some money left in her budget.

She gets stuck with John McBride, who stays next door. As Claire tries to take revenge on her cheating Bryan's girlie (why not Bryan?), as John tries to deal with his blind dislike for workaholic women, as his workaholic but dotty mother comes for a visit, as a murder plot starts to pile, as someone tries to take revenge on John (did I mention that John is an FBI agent?), as... stop. Stop, stop, stop.

Is Beverly Brandt a first time author? I checked the back cover, and it seems to say that she is. Well, she sure displays that all-eggs-in-one-basket trait most authors display in their first book. Too many things, and none resolved properly - this book has just 327 pages, not 3,270 - can only mean that True North is a very exhausting and unsatisfactory read.

There's also an underlying theme that I find rather insulting. Claire and John's mom are pretty much taken to task for being workaholics. On one hand, the author does try to create a deeper character in Momma Mary Jane by giving her some depths, but on the other hand, it seems that workaholism in women is no good because the family unit will disintegrate, blah blah blah. How about workaholism in men, I wonder. Or it is only bad when workaholics in question are women, perhaps?

But that's probably just me. The bigger issues here are the lack of character development, too many plots and subplots that only become increasingly implausible as the story progresses, hammy humor that mostly comes off awkward because of the too-frantic pace, and... let's just say the true North has never been this frantic and chaotic. Maybe Ms Brandt will take a really deep breath and do some tai-chi or some relaxation things before she writes her next book. I can't buy it if I'm dead from exhaustion as a result of True North.

Rating: 63


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