Tell me what you like

Reviewed by Andy Smart

The mark of a skilled juggler is the number of balls she can keep in the air at once; Kate Allen manages to keep a dazzling number of suspects ‘in the air’ at once for almost the whole novel, which is every bit as neat a trick. This is just one of the things which makes Tell me what you like such a good book. Normally by around three-quarters of the way through, you’ve pretty much narrowed down the list of suspects to a couple - excluding the one the detective is having a romance with of course. Allen doesn’t give you this much of a break and, while I did work it out before the end I was still not sure of my solution till the grand finale.

I also like detective Alison Kaine. She’s clever, resourceful and has problems which do not degenerate into stereotype neuroses. Mind you I like all the characters - and there are a lot of them! Not like in the sense that they are all pleasant folks you’d want to spend a cheerful evening with but like in the sense that they are so gloriously well drawn. They range from a group of malevolent fundamentalist re-programmers, who made me more angry than a fictional character has in years, to a couple of wildly eccentric new-age types (one of them sculpts salad bowls in the shape of vaginas, badly, to give you an idea of their eccentricities).

One thing you cannot avoid however is that this book has a fair bit of sex. Many mysteries take a kind of ‘waves on the seashore, cut to them having breakfast’ approach to sex - not that this doesn’t work perfectly well of course. Tell me what you like however has a quite a bit of explicit sex, and the sex is far from what you might term ‘vanilla’. I took the step of asking one of my lesbian friends whose read it to comment on the ‘plausiblity’ of the sex scenes (you know you are friends with somebody when you can ask that) and she felt that they were believable. In my opinion (and you know my email address, feel free to disagree) it does serve a purpose for the plot and helps develop Alison Kaine as a character. OK, so it may well offend some readers, but I think it’s justified.

To tell you more would be to break my rule of not giving away and clues, but I reckon it’s worth reading; I’ll be investigating Alison Kaine further

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