Nice
by Jen Sacks, contemporary (1999)
St Martin's Press, $5.99, ISBN 0-312-96925-2


Ooh mama mia indeed. Just when I thought I'd never find a twisted romance to match the cinematic exuberance of Grosse Pointe Blank or True Romance, here comes Nice. I found this book mainly by serendipity, during my book binge where I am rummaging around the general fiction aisle for some bloody blood-and-guts read to get over the whiny, stupidly virtuous heroines in the romances I was reading lately.

Nice is a romance between two murderous sociopaths. That means, readers looking for sheriffs, cowboys, secret babies, and smalltown Miss Prims trying desperately to get laid to beat their biological clocks should look elsewhere. Far, far away. There is no morality in Nice, no punishment for heinous sins, and some rather twistedly funny scenes of mayhem and murder.

Grace is a pretty normal lady. She's beautiful, she attracts men like flies, but the thing is, she just can't say no when these men want more than what she is willing to offer. After all, if you can't be nice, don't say anything at all, right? So she murders the men to spare them of the pain of rejection.

Oh, and she's very handy at doing that with normal household things. Wait until you see the fun she can do with a baseball bat.

Sam isn't his real name. Actually, he's a Russian spy recently defected to US under less-than-official means. He kills people. It was his old job, and now his new job is he killing people for money. It's a less noble or patriotic job, maybe, compared to his old one, but hey, killing people requires neurones and planning, you know.

So when he witnesses Grace in an impromptu yet perfect murder, it's love at first sight layered over admiration (... for twenty-five years, I have been striving to attain what she seemed to be able to achieve effortlessly: the perfect murder).

But Grace is Ally McBeal with homicidal tendencies. She can't commit, but she is attracted, oh yes. And this time, Sam may be the one (probably the only one) who could survive a relationship with her. Are wedding bells in their future? Who knows?

But it's great fun knowing Sam and Grace. They are a hoot. Reading about Sam's reluctant fascination giving way to voluntary affections and reading about Grace's slower but inevitable surrender are definitely high points. I mean, they are sick, twisted people (oh, the sociopath groupie in me is in heaven already) who kill people one night and wonder whether they should change the draperies the morning after, but somehow, that makes their falling in love with each other more precious. The scene where Sam and Grace sleep together - just sleep - that's a beautiful scene.

And I am really touched at the way Sam plans to murder the sole witness that could implicate Grace. I mean, gosh, that's so protective! Give me a man who would kill for me than a man who'd rather die for me, I say. Oh my.

I know, I'm one sick, twisted reader. I'll probably be panned for giving this book a high grade. But you know what? I really, really love this one. Nice fulfills my craving for a non-saccharine, noirish, twisted romance, one that I never know I have until I watch Martin Blank in Grosse Pointe Blank telling his sweetheart Debbie, "Debbie, I know we can make this work" - bang! as he fires into a villain at the floor - "I have given it a lot of thought" - bang! - "Will you marry me?" - bang!

Twisted? Sick? Ah, but Nice is so good, funny, and romantic too, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Rating: 96


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