Pure Dynamite
by Lauren Bach, contemporary (2004)
Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-7631-2

After a long silence where Lauren Bach changes publisher (don't snigger, people, it's rude) and no doubt spends her time contemplating where she went wrong the first time and recharged her batteries to come up with a marvelous romantic suspense... okay, maybe not the "marvelous" thing. Pure Dynamite, Ms Bach's Zebra debut, is a cartoonish paint-by-number story where coincidences and unlikely contrivances (all the better to create conflicts, of course) often take precedence over logic. It's predictable, it won't get the brain puzzling to figure out who the bad guy is, and it is easily digested and just as quickly excreted from my memory.

On the bright side, at least the hero's name is Adam Duval and not some ridiculous variant involving caricaturish "macho and sexy" monikers mated with the name of an animal in a manner that pays tribute to Cassie Edwards. Adam Duval. What a refreshingly normal name for a secret agent hero! Adam Duval. After so many Christian Banes, Derek Darkes, Jinx Murdochs, Bear Morellis, and other names straight out of the encyclopedia of WWE monikers, I can keep saying that name again and again.

Adam Duval is trying to get to the bottom of the antics of the McEdwin family, all of whom are terrorists. He spent the last three months in prison trying to befriend Lyle McEdwin for this reason. Yes, I know they are in prison but no, Adam doesn't befriend Lyle that way. No bending over in the shower is required and no soap is harmed in this story. But the new best friends forever hit a snag in their plan to break out of prison and rejoin the rest of the McEdwins when Lyle gets himself shot. Adam has to find someone to sew Lyle up because if Lyle dies, his mission will go down the drain. He kidnaps our heroine Dr Renata Curtis at gunpoint subsequently.

Poor Dr Renata. Yes, she may be a doctor but she could fit a pair of extra-large slippers inside the cavity of her skull where her brain should be and still have room for a few more pairs. She's one of those heroines who are vulnerable to the charms of a pretty face to the point that she starts wondering that Adam may not be a bad guy. You know, because he's hot and has a washboard stomach?

But the suspense is soon thrown out of the window for the Trials of Renata's Female Sanctum. Oh no, Lyle and all those ugly, slobbering McEdwin men! Will their no doubt warty and no doubt mutated penises violate our heroine? Save her, Adam, save her, so that only your patriotic dong will and can make Renata sing the national anthem at the top of her voice!

There are no middle grounds in this story. The villains are so enormously sadistic and nasty and stupid (Lyle is so stupid, in fact, that I wonder how he remembers to breathe with each step he takes), designed solely to generate plenty of Renata-in-distress scenes. Both Adam and her have plenty of stereotypical and contrived issues involving bad parents, bad ex-husbands, and unrealistically one-dimensional "Don't love! Can't love!" angsts that result from these tedious and overused baggages. While Ms Bach shows a rare moment of lucidity when she tries to suggest that perhaps the McEdwins are the products of a social and economical system that fail to help them adapt, she caricaturizes them too much at that point to salvage matters.

Pure Dynamite is a mildly entertaining story if only because it is so one-dimensional that this book is like a Looney Tunes cartoon featuring cartoon characters that have better grammar, at least, than Porky the Pig and Bugs Bunny. That counts for something, I guess, as I certainly can't count on this book if I am looking for some intelligent and well-crafted romantic suspense.

Rating: 66

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