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by Hannah Dennison
Berkley, March 2008
304 pages
ISBN: 0425220486

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I'm not sure when neurotic became the new charming, but I blame it on Bridget Jones. Nobody seems to remember that Ms Jones' literary progenitor, Elizabeth Bennet, was a cool, collected, intelligent woman who only broke down when her entire family was threatened, instead of Bridget's hysterics over life's most minor setbacks. I've become very tired of cozy heroines who flail their way through the plots with no clue, no wit, and no self-control, substituting stumbling and serendipity for sleuthing.

In my search for a heroine with five brain cells to knock together, I was particularly interested in the new series about reporter Vicky Hill. Surely an investigative reporter of all people would be able to coolly and logically investigate a murder!

It turns out that Vicky Hill thinks of herself as an investigative reporter, but she's really a new cub at a tiny paper in a tinier English town. Her hopes of making her reputation with A VICKY HILL EXCLUSIVE! prove ever elusive as the managing editor assigns her to funerals and the newest reporter in town, Annabel, bitches, bribes, schemes, and sleeps her way towards the front page.

Although Vicky soon gets hints of a big story in the hedge-jumping death of local squire Sir Hugh Trewallyn, when she tries to investigate it, she is constantly cut off by Annabel, practically stalked by Topaz (the reporter-groupie waitress at the tea room across the street), and never taken seriously by editor Pete.

Her reporter instincts are further dulled by her repeated wild leaps to conclusions and her rapidly annoying habit of sizing up everyone she meets as not just a witness or informant, but someone anyone who might take her virginity. (The two habits blend into one unfunny scene when she is called into the editor's office and promptly assumes it has to do with sex instead of a story.)

Fortunately for Vicky, there is so much going on that she can't help but trip over story ideas. There are the ritually mutilated chickens at the local dump, the anti-hedge-jumping group that may have done something to foil Sir Hugh (he was found dead in a hedge), and the mysterious American who fought with the widow at the funeral. And trip she does trip, assume, flail, hope, fantasize, and fib just about everything but actually investigate.

It's a moderately amusing story, but I can't get over my disappointment that someone I hoped would break the mold was instead yet another Bridget-like helpless, hapless ditz, right down to the overemphasis on her sex life instead of her job.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, February 2008

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