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'Basic Instinct' has got a lot to answer for. In 1992 it brought to cinema an ultra sleek sexy film that made an instant star of Sharon Stone and highlighted Michael Douglas as the skirt botherer he is. Watch the film now and you will see some of the most dated cinema around, not only has fashion moved on from this era, but also tastes and attitudes. Despite its naffness there is still something to be said for the film with its cheesy blue goodness. However, this can not be said about the numerous other films that tried to jump on the erotic thriller band wagon. Most of them were about as sexy and thrilling as a dinner with Alan Shearer as the guest speaker. These cash-ins were not film only as many books also came out. One such book is by Richard Montanari, who has recently found fame with his new books such as 'The Rosary Girls'. Having read this later book I was interested in reading 'Deviant Ways', one of his earlier efforts, and was given the opportunity via an online mobile library. This library consisted mostly of women, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the kind of fiction they like to read!
Detective Jack Paris is a cop in early 90s Cleveland with Al Pacino hair. This may not mean a lot to you, but ladies love the hair. As well as being a ladies man Paris has one of the best solving rates in the country so when a particularly difficult case of murder appears he is given the job of solving it. Over the past few months someone has been targeting young women and killing them. The killer seems to be preying on ambitious women he meets in the cities more illustrious night clubs. Paris' investigations will take him into the seedy underbelly of the city were he will learn more about deviance than he would ever want.
Before even contemplating reading this book you must be aware of how misogynistic it is. The main character's main goals in life seemed to be to catch killers and sleep with women. In this respect large parts of the book have him ogling attractive woman ten years younger than him. All the dialogue between the male cops seems to surround their sexual escapades. My mum always used to say that the more you talk about it, the less you get. Unfortunately, this is not the case in 'Deviant Ways' as there is plenty of it. Why do aging male authors assume that all women want to sleep with men in their 40s? The book does feel narcissistic and a bit pervy - so like 'Basic Instinct' then.
The similarities between 'Basic' and 'Deviant' do not stop there as both of them sit on top of a decent crime thriller storyline. In fact, the crime elements of this book are strong enough to make the narrative compelling - it's a shame that it is constantly broken up by slightly nauseating passages. Thankfully, the mystery did keep me gripped till the end and I was also able to begrudgingly respect the naughtier passages due to the sheer number of them. That Montanari is one persistent man!
'Deviant Ways' is a good thriller hampered by bad decisions made by the author. The inclusion of sex may have pulled in the crowds, but it has done little but undermine the plot and date the book. Perhaps the one element that dates the book even more is the central character Jack Paris. This aging cop still believes he has it with his 'Al Pacino Hair'. This description of his hair is the type of nonsense that Montanari comes up with throughout the book. Paris seems very successful with the ladies from 20 through to 200. However, as a reader you feel a little sad for him. A divorcee workaholic who cruises around late night cattle markets does not seem like an attractive mate to me.
By the conclusion of the book I had been battered into submission by Montanari's style. By reeling out every cliché known to man I started to enjoy myself - the book had got so bad, it was good. The problem is that the book is so dated, not only in terms of the characters and descriptions, but also in the attitudes towards dating and sex. If you can get yourself in the mindset of those heady early 90s erotic thrillers then maybe you will enjoy this. The rest of you will probably find yourself needing a good shower afterwards to try and wash away the memories! It is all a matter of taste I guess, and this case - bad taste. Hidden away amongst the filth and the clichés is a half decent mystery trying to break out. If you are looking for something that has dated to the point of amusement then perhaps this will do.
Any book that describes having Al Pacino hair as a reason why women sleep with someone can't be all bad - can it?
Author: Richard Montanari
Price: amazon uk - £10 (2nd hand) all the original copies have probably been pulped!
A novel about a serial killer who stalks his victims in the singles bars of Cleveland, and about the cop who sets out to stop him, only to find himself caught in a web of horror of his own making.