Jean Bedford


To Make a Killing


After relishing a couple of Perez-Reverte novels I'm experimenting with this genre, so I'm going through a list of crime authors from a pamphlet at the local library. Amusing coincidence that just grabbing the first author alphabetically on the list gave me a story set in and around my home town of Nowra. Several enjoyable local references - almost enough to be a mere selling gimmick - but not profound insights into the soul of the area.


The plot meanders along OK, with events racing to a standard sensational climax with virtually no falling action. Bedford overuses the same techniques to remind us how she defines cool: her heroine is constantly enjoying European food and wine, and has an absurd amount of baths. There's also a fairly unsubtle pushing of values - a mandatory casual sex encounter, ticking boxes about aborigines and the environment, and a pretty outrageous italicised instruction to the reader about how to judge a lesbian relationship, 'Good, they make a fine couple those two.' As if that wasn't enough, Bedford ladles it on with the plot: Lesbians are the sort of people who lovingly look after the mentally disabled - whereas constructionalists are nazis who want to kill them, gottit?


The characters aren't quite wafer thin - but I suspect we're getting a reflection of a fairly shallow perception of the author. While the heroine at one point states something like, 'If I learned one thing in my business, people are always more complex than a first impression can tell you,' the book totally negates it. People never surprise us and are rigidly classed as goodies and baddies. And the political correctness is pretty stifling: we're very clearly told, for example, what to think about constructionalists and environmentalists.


So, no, I haven't found another Perez-Reverte, and would probably only have enjoyed it if my smug view of the world corresponded more closely to that of Bedford.


April 2003