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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Narcissus in Chains Chapter Two

Dottie's run down of chapter two is here

Title drop as it is revealed that the club where they are hiding the leopards is called Narcissus in Chains.

Anita realizes Ronnie is there listening to her half of the phone call with Gregory. She says Ronnie "didn't belong in this part of my life." Well, why not? Ronnie is a private investigator. Why wouldn't she be able to help Anita? I suppose that would ruin the lone wolf thing LKH is trying to jam down my throat. Ronnie amazingly calls her on this, and Anita folds enough to tell Ronnie what is going on. I'm shocked by the flashes of insight Anita seems to have in this book. It's one of those things that tells me there's a good book in here somewhere. It's just a pity that LKH hasn't allowed anyone to help her find it.

Ronnie makes the very cogent suggestion that Anita use *69 on her phone to determine who called. *69 calls the number that called you last. Anita, this hot shit zombie raiser who works with the cops all the time says, "What good will that do?" The mind boggles. What do people see in this woman, that she's asked to participate at crime scenes? This isn't even a question of police work or criminology, that is basic fucking knowledge. I suspect she says this so the reader can learn about what *69 does. The inability to weave info like this in to the narrative in a more seamless fashion shows some of LKH's limitations as a writer. Ronnie says she's a "trained detective" and that's why she knows about "these things." I fear a world where someone has to be a trained detective to realize *69 might be a helpful tool in this situation. Man, I am sure glad I don't live in AB verse St. Louis.

Anita avails herself of *69 and when someone answers she asks to talk to Gregory. That is also really stupid. Why she would think a random bouncer would know where her leopards are being held I can't fathom, plus she doesn't know who she can trust yet she's blabbing Gregory's name to a stranger. This makes me wonder if LKH has even watched a true crime show, let alone read a book about investigation. That's not good for a book about a woman who works closely with the police. I realize I have a giant throbbing hard on for research and not everyone needs to take it to the level I enjoy, but something would be a good idea if the protagonist holds a job the author knows little about.

Neither Ronnie or Anita know where the club is. I find this hard to believe considering Anita's relationship with J.C. and the fact that he runs a huge nightclub. Even though she protests that the seedy night life is not "her scene" it most assuredly is thanks to her connections to him. Also, she's an executioner and an investigator of sorts, yet she doesn't know much about the club scene where she lives and works? That's doing really poorly at your job. Anita should have a working knowledge of every major club in her area. Who runs them, what kind of supernatural they are, the ebb and flow of vampire and shifter politics. Even though ultimately her end goal is to kill vampires, it requires more skills than pure combat to get to targets. Diplomacy, interrogation, the ability to blend in. But silly me, those things aren't badass enough.

She does think to call J.C. and ask him about this club, which okay fine, that's good, but I am still a little gobsmacked that she doesn't know this crap already. Especially since vampires are likely to screw you over with information, so it would be a doubly good idea to have a fair store of said same yourself.

Anita also keeps emphasizing what selfish bastards the shifter groups are, how they won't help each other and so on. She never does explain why this is. They have animal urges, certainly, but I don't see why their human sides can't figure out how to work together. I also find it a bit unbelievable that St. Louis supports so many apex predators. I include vampires in that list. I have to figure that vampires, like big cats, would each require hundreds of miles of territory in which to hunt. Except every club in this damn town is fit to bursting with supernaturals. Where are all the humans? How do all of these vampires and predators and shit eat?

Anita tries to be paternalistic and offensive to Ronnie about whether Ronnie is allowed to accompany her to the club. Apparently because Ronnie doesn't like to shoot people at the slightest provocation, she is a liability to Anita. Nevermind the fact that Ronnie is a trained investigator and surely knows how to handle a gun. Or that Ronnie is an adult woman (Gasp! thirty!) who wants to help her best friend.

I understand that Anita doesn't want Ronnie to get hurt, but sometimes you have to let people expose themselves to danger in order to preserve their autonomy. Ronnie is not stupid, she is not naive, she is trained. She knows what she's getting in to and there's no reason for Anita to lecture her about how shifter politics are just oh so dangerous. It also tells me that Anita does not see any other options when it comes to problems except for ones that involve guns, violence, and death. This is not badass. It's sad, even a little pathetic. Does Anita have any other skills beyond aiming and firing? I don't mind if a main character is efficient with weapons. I just want them to evince a fair array of skills beyond that.

"Flavor" is a weird descriptor for type, isn't it?

Ronnie again comes through with the common sense when she says "Are you sure he [Jean Claude] didn't plan this to get you back in to his life, excuse me, death?" If he really were as well connected and cunning as LKH wants me to believe, he'd be doing exactly this. But he's not, because LKH cannot allow anything to truly blindisde or even inconvenience Anita.

My god, I love Ronnie. Which means, I'm sure, that she'll soon be shuttled off to the side where she can no longer interfere with Anita's campaign to be the Most Special. We're still at a point in this series where occasionally Anita has a flash of real insight, but rest assured that will not last.

"It's hard for brown eyes to be cold..." It is? So Anita goes all badass! hard! cold! when Ronnie asks if she could truly shoot and kill J.C. despite loving him. This seems like a weird thing for Ronnie to say considering she spent the first chapter trying to convince Anita he needed killing. Now suddenly she's horrified that Anita could do it despite having feelings for him. "Something very like fear slide behind her eyes. I don't know if she was afraid for me, or of me. I preferred the first to the last." What? Why? Why do you want your best friend to be afraid of you? Often times, kids with developing sociopathy confuse fear with love and admiration, to the point where they will claim that the other children in their class think highly of them, when really those children are afraid. This is how I am reading what's going on here. Anita has mistaken fear from Ronnie for respect. That is not healthy.


SOCIOPATHY/PSYCHOPATHY IS NOT COOL. Lately there's been a slew of truly offensive articles and books about how our society needs a certain amount of sociopaths and narcissists to survive. This is unadulterated bullshit, and if true should do nothing more than motivate us to dismantle any such society and start over from scratch. Psychopathy is what made Ted Bundy, Gary Ridgeway, John Wayne Gacy and a score of other horrific murderers possible. It means you are fundamentally broken, and you cannot be fixed. You lack empathy, which to humans is of the utmost importance if we are to collaborate and thrive.

Often, a person with these problems will abuse others even if they never get violent. They are emotional vampires who drain the love and light out of everything they touch. All of this waffle about Anita being a sociopath is meant to make her seem super badass and cool, doubly so with the Edward character. No. It is a sign that there is something vital missing, something that can never be installed at a later date. It is a tragedy, not something to be valued.

As much as I love Silence of the Lambs and Dexter (well the first two seasons, anyway) they glamorize conditions that in real life lead to untold abuse. Ted Bundy has this mythology about being oh so smart and handsome, that he was on the road to being a political star and a lawyer. The reality is he could never make good on either of those things because he was so consumed with murder all the time. Beneath the surface, he was an empty shell. He lied constantly, often just for the sake of it. He used the charisma he did have to abduct, torture, murder and rape scores of young women. I was raised by a narcissist. It was not cool, glamorous, or necessary.

Anita tries to save the situation by saying that she'll murder J.C. if J.C. is the one torturing Gregory. Okay, cool. Makes sense. Who wouldn't in her position, really. And then Ronnie says "I don't understand that, Anita. I don't understand that at all." I am so confused and no one has consistent characterization. I'm only on chapter two! Note, I was in a bookstore awhile back and opened a copy of Affliction, the 22 Anita book. It was four pages of people saying "I don't understand" and "what does that even mean?" I'm already getting that feeling in NiC.

Then Anita thinks "You're my friend, my best friend, I thought. But I don't understand you anymore." What's not to understand? She thinks you're playing a dangerous game and sooner or later you're going to get burned, which you are. What's hard to understand about that? Especially since you never seem to treat her like an adult and won't fully explain your reasoning.

Weird ass sentence alert: "They fear my threat." 

Some subtle misogyny rears its ugly head: "She tucked her knees up, wrapping her arms around those long legs. She'd managed to get a tiny prick in one of the hose; the hole was shiny with clear nail polish. She'd carried the polish in her purse for just such emergencies. I'd carried a gun and hadn't even taken a purse." 

In the hands of a different writer I wouldn't mind this. It's just meant to emphasize that Anita is forgetting the normal things people tend to do. But in LKH's hands, I know this is an echo of the sexism to come. Anita is different and indeed better because she doesn't trouble herself with feminine things like purses and runs in her nylons.

They sure say each other's names a lot.

How come Ronnie thinks a werewolf is a better romantic choice than a vampire, by the way? LKH even has her shifters drink blood (?).

Anita refuses to cry in front of Ronnie which strikes me as weird, since they're arguing over how supposedly cold Anita is. This is her best friend, who desperately wants to see some normal emotion from Anita. So...Anita withholds that emotion. That's terrible.

Harmful idea count: 1


  1. "Something very like fear slide behind her eyes. I don't know if she was afraid for me, or of me. I preferred the first to the last." What? Why? Why do you want your best friend to be afraid of you?

    Um, she doesn't. Which is exactly what she said - the first implication is that Ronnie is afraid *for* Anita, rather than *of* her. Although Anita is kind of a violent sociopath (see: her love of guns and whipping them out at even the slightest provocation).

    1. oh well crap, I totally read that line backwards. Thanks for pointing it out.

    2. It probably could have been phrased better, but that would require editing, and LKH is too good for that! And the fact that Anita isn't entirely sure which Ronnie is feeling is kinda disturbing.

    3. It probably could have been phrased better, but that would require LKH to have admitted that her first drafts were not, in fact, entirely perfect. And the fact that Anita isn't sure whether Ronnie is afraid *for* her or *of* her is incredibly disturbing.

    4. I seriously read that sentence like eight times and I still got the incorrect meaning out of it. I'm not sure if that's my fault or LKH's, but somewhere in there a communication error definitely occurred. I will say in defense of myself that LKH does seem to have a problem with being clear.

  2. Wow, even I know what *69 is and I'm no detective. And Anita refusing to have Ronnie as back up, even though she keeps her cool and is a PI, does not make any sense. Also, the fact that you go out of your way to research for writing a story is preferable to writing something that you have no clue about.

    1. I think she excludes Ronnie because otherwise she'd have to acknowledge that there are other women succeeding at a law enforcement job, and Anita's position as exemplary female would be in jeopardy. From what I've heard this gets worse and worse as the books continue, until Anita is basically the only woman around.

    2. Hasn't Ronnie shot and killed at least two people protecting Anita in two other previous books? Why would she suddenly be incompetent help now?

    3. Hasn't Ronnie shot and killed at least two people protecting Anita in two other previous books? Why would she suddenly be incompetent help now?