Friday, August 15, 2014

Seduction by Catherine Gildiner

The long-suffering people in my book club could tell you that there are a few things that I hate in fiction: time travel is the big one for me, but another one that comes up often is the use of real, historical people as characters in fiction. I feel it is unfair not only to the memory of the person in question (and certainly to any surviving relatives), but also more often than not it denotes lazy writing; a writer who could not invent a character of their own, or build a world populated with anyone other than the folks we've already heard of.

It was for this reason that I was wary going into this novel, which features a picture of Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna on the cover, and hosts a preface by the author in which she describes her extensive study of Freud and Charles Darwin.

The premise of the book is that our hero, Kate Fitzgerald, is in prison for killing her husband (a crime to which she freely admits). She has been there for nine years when her psychiatrist, the thoroughly slimy and incompetent Dr. Gardonne, proposes a temporary absence for her to take on a paid job from him. Kate is an expert in Freud, and a man named Dr. Konzac has been making waves in the psychoanalytic community by announcing that he has some damaging information about Freud that he is soon to release. Gardonne wants Kate to find out what the information is.

Of course she is teamed up with an ex-con-cum-private-investigator named Jackie, and of course they are warned not to become romantically involved, and so of course there's buttloads of chemistry. For the first 100 pages it wasn't this that annoyed me so much as the info-dump style of conversation these two were having. Neither asked questions, they just said everything they knew about Freud in paragraphs-long monologues. It was necessary information for the reader to understand the plot, but regardless, it was distractingly shitty writing.

Things pick up around the middle of the book, and some murders happen, and Jackie and Kate have to turn their attention to solving the murders so as to prevent themselves from being assumed the guilty parties. This being a Freudian mystery, there is much introspection on mothers and fathers and the titular seduction theory. At first the author (and the protagonist) seems to be a big Freud fan, but throughout the course of the book Freudian theory takes a pretty solid beating.

Toronto has a pretty backseat presence in the novel, which is mostly set in various European cities, but there are a few scenes in Kate's lakefront condo.

The characters (outside of Kate) aren't super well drawn, but it is an exciting mystery in parts and I was willing to give this book a fair-to-middling grade, but then it turns out the murderer is [SORT OF SPOILER] an actual person who actually lived. Who then kills themself. WTF is this. Call me uptight, but I just don't feel like it's fair play as a writer to not only make a real historical person into a character in your book, but then to make them murder two people and commit suicide - WHEN THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE - is a really shitty thing to do. You may as well go take a piss on their grave, although this is maybe worse since the author is making money from it.

 On the off chance that there are folks not as offended by this as I am, I give this novel a reluctant two CN Towers out of five.

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