Full Tilt
by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes, contemporary (2003)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 0-312-98328-X


This is an entirely new book, the authors claim, but I wonder if this isn't a rework of the authors' 1980ish Knight Rider fanfiction that they have kept hidden in their drawer until now. Full Tilt is also the first book in what will be a new series starring Jamie Swift, newspaper woman and full blown klutz, and Maximilian Holt, tech expert and owner of a talking high-tech car named Muffin. I dare you to envision David Hasslehoff as Max, go on.

Jamie Swift doesn't know that her ailing Beaumont, South Carolina newspaper is saved from ruin by Max, the brother of Deedee, a menopausal fortysomething friend of Jamie. Deedee is not to be confused with Vera, a dotty old lady friend of Jamie. And definitely not with Mrs Giggles, the P.O'ed old lady who will get down from a bus at Beaumont, pull out her ultra-large bug spray can, and zap every irritating and stupid bad comedy in this place.

This story is filled with dotty characters from strippers to assassins to poachers to wrestlers running for election, and of course, someone is trying to kill Max when he comes to Beaumont to help the wrestler bro-in-law Frankie run his mayorial campaign. Or so the latter is what is what he claims to be the reason he drives into town. But why then are people stuffing dynamite in his car?

I think the authors are trying to create a klutz-and-saboteur duo, sort of like Remington Steele, maybe? Heck, Full Tilt feels dated enough in that respect. I mean, do bad guys still use dynamite nowadays when one could easily get recipes for smaller, more sophisticated explosives online? Muffin the talking car is beyond cheesy, but she and Max have more chemistry than Max and that personality-anorexic Jamie ever could. Yup, Jamie is the classic braindead type who wails that her expensive stockings are ruined when she is shot. Or bursts into tears when it's time for her to act. If she has a personality, it's Permanently Flustered. At least Max is cool in a cheesy Knight Rider way (personally, I always prefer Street Hawk - gimme a cool dude on a cool bike to a cool dude in a scary talking car anytime), but Jamie could really get on my nerves. She's not just stupid and a useless baggage, she's the entire road to ugly just outside Hicksville Town.

The whole over-the-top she-bang-bang adventure of Full Tilt has its charms. It makes me get all nostalgic for the days of One For The Money, for example, because this story actually has a plot and a focus, albeit over-the-top zany ones. No old people on the loose, no annoying long-drawn love triangles, just Max, his car, and a pretty but vacuous useless baggage. If he can ditch the baggage or the baggage can grow a brain to cater to more than the lowest denominator, who knows, there may be hope to this series in the future. Full Tilt is often too over-the-top for its own good, but it has its moments. While not a full-blown fun read, it's not a complete, er, "tilts-up" failure either.

But gawd, that heroine is so teeth-gnashing bleeding annoying!

Rating: 62


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