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by Tracey Shellito
Creme de la Crime, July 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0954763459

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Tracey Shellito's novel PERSONAL PROTECTION is almost unremittingly bleak. The opening chapters, where bodyguard Randall McGonnigal finds her exotic dancer girlfriend Tori has been attacked, require a fairly strong stomach. But this is a book which isn't afraid to go out on a limb.

Randall is a butch 5ft 5" security expert who divides her time between bodyguarding clients and working with her PI friend Dean. The gorgeous Tori works at a Blackpool lap-dancing club, and as Randall tries to find out who attacked Tori, she discovers other women at the club have also been victims of crime.

The police don't seem in the least bit interested, despite the fact there's been a suspicious death, rape and vandalism. And soon Randall is attacked after she starts investigating the club and the people involved with it.

PERSONAL PROTECTION is a mixed bag of a book. It's a powerful, edgy story which is doing something a bit different, and it's a book I didn't want to put down. The writing tends to lack fluency, though -- sometimes I had to re-read a par twice to get the sense of it. And there are some very strange Americanisms in the text which jumped out at me. Even though Randall spends a lot of the book in a state of undress, I hardly think she'd be dressed in her pants in public in England! Bit nippy for that sort of thing in Blackpool . . .!

It's a similar story with the plot. It's a neat one, and Shellito resists the temptation to tie things up neatly and happily at the end. But frustratingly, there's a far too easy resolution to one strand of the plot which verges on the 'oh purleese' territory! And the whodunit is extremely obvious -- and I'm speaking as someone who often misses red herrings strewn helpfully in front of her!

The characterisation is also uneven. I found Randall a fascinating character, particularly with her issues over sexual identity. The gay boys are verging on the stereotypical, and Randall's ex Cecily lacks depth.

I'm assuming this is a first novel, although several references to exciting incidents in Randall's past made me wonder if Shellito has a prequel stashed in her bottom drawer! If so, she should hoike it out and dust it down, because this has the makings of a dark and challenging series. Enough threads are left dangling for us to assume there's more to come -- including a main angle to the story which I'd like to see resolved, and which would provide plenty of material in later books.

If you like Zoe Sharp's female bodyguard series, and are not a narrow-minded, dyed-in-the-wool bigot, PERSONAL PROTECTION is well worth a read.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, July 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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