Hot Shot
by Charlotte Hughes, contemporary (2002)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-941-2


While suffering through the excruciating Hot Shot, a light bulb goes off in my head. Instead of lugging off all those bad "romantic suspense" books gathering dust in my storeroom to the UBS and inflicting them on some unsuspecting reader, I'll just send them to the local police academy. These books, with their complete absence of logic or common sense, will be perfect guides to what not to do in various stages of police duty. And if I do get around to doing that, I'll place Hot Shot at the top of the pile.

Wait, do I really want to drive men with guns crazy? What if they get so enraged with pain that they charge into my house with guns fully loaded and drawn? It'll be worse than that Miami incident. Scrap that thought. Some sucker visiting the UBS will be getting these books instead.

Oh, Hot Shot. Seriously, what a pain.

Frankie Daniels, hotshot detective from Atlanta, is, er, "transferred" (to put it nicely) to Purdyville, Hell - okay, South Carolina - after a less than discreet affair with her very married colleague. At this point, I'm amused. Despite Ms Hughes' insistence that Frankie is tough, et cetera, her entire life is shaped by the men in her life - her father and now her father's best friend saving her ass - and these men are her safety nets. So much for toughness, really. In Purdyville, she clashes with her boss, Matt Webber, police chief of Purdy Purdy Purdyville - oh, I really want to retch when I hear the name of that town, Purdy Purdy Purdyville eeeurgh.

But let me be blunt and say that Purdyville is populated by the worst of the worst of social nuisances and Matt and Frankie and the entire Purdyville Hick Cop Squad are the worst law enforcers I've ever encountered, period. There are a bunch of ruffians running around terrorizing everybody, but the cops never even consider locking them up! No, ma'am, it's better to let them run free and terrorize everybody when this book needs a conflict, because that way, the cops can keep an eye on them better. Even better, the folks here agree. They have guns and baseball bats just in case those ruffians attack, so don't worry me, purdy cops, I got me rusty sawed-off gun, you cops go on your merry way now, you hear?

This must be the sorriest justification for vigilante mentality and anti-gun control measures ever. Wait, maybe Ms Hughes here is trying some reverse psychology here. If so, that's not too bad... until I remember my $6.50. I hate my life all over again.

Needless to say, Frankie gets terrorized and assaulted by said ruffians more than once in the story. Each time, the cops, including Webber, promise to keep a closer eye on the ruffians. Promises, promises. Dem Purdyville cops are sure great, eh?

There are also loud and abrasive old women who would eat toddlers for lunch but are humored because "they're one of us" and hence exempt from rules like social etiquette. Then there's Frankie, a whiny and brittle woman who lets her "female" emotions (damn everything else - save the babies, save the old women, damn common sense and caution!) make her do plenty of stupid things, Matt who lets ruffians run amok in his town while he plays some unfunny pranks on the "city girl", and other sad, sad testament as to why sometimes we should all just wear radioactive protection gear and just torch down these evil Salem's Lot horrors of smalltown. Purdyville here is actually the Island of Dr Moreau pretending to be Pleasantville, and I, for one, am lucky to escape with my sanity intact.

Hot Shot? More like a shot of mercury into my veins.

Rating: 20


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