Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: "Sleeping With the Fishes" by MaryJanice Davidson

Sometimes, an intriguing character can take a so-so book and elevate it to something worth reading.

That's exactly what happened with "Sleeping With the Fishes" by MaryJanice Davidson.

The book follows Fred (real name Fredrika Bimm), a half-mermaid marine biologist in Boston. Her life is going as normal as it can for a half-mermaid until two gorgeous men show up to try to discover why there are toxins in Boston Harbor - fellow marine biologist Thomas and Artur, High Prince of the Black Sea. They both fall in love with Fred, of course - much to Fred's annoyance.

The concept is amusing, and I like the way Davidson handled the mermaid stuff - when Fred and Artur get in the water, they grow a tail. Why? Because they're merpeople! They can breath underwater? How? Who cares! It didn't need to be explained more than that.

Unfortunately, Davidson seems to have had a good concept but not quite a way to use it. The plot is a little bit contrived, and the ending comes out of left field a little bit. The whole style of writing is a bit scattered - the narration goes from person to person, with several people getting a chapter about them, but without a ton of reason for the switches. The book really could have been told entirely from Fred's point of view, I think. Overall, it was a bit of a mess, more like a first draft than a fully fleshed out novel. In the introduction to the book, Davidson talks about how she started over a couple of times and the manuscript was late. Clearly, they were waiting for a book from her so they rushed it into publication. It's kind of a shame, because with a little bit of polish it could have been excellent.

There is one thing that really redeemed "Sleeping With the Fishes" for me - Fred the Mermaid. She's standoffish, cranky, sour and self-absorbed - just how I like my chick-lit heroines! She's maybe just a bit too cranky, actually - like Davidson had something to prove - but I like that Fred gets annoyed by the guys and their love for her and just wants to do her job. She's actually a pretty sucky mermaid - allergic to shellfish, gets seasick on boats, etc. - but she's a great marine biologist (partly because she can talk to fish, and partly because she clearly loves it).

"Sleeping With the Fishes" is an incredibly fast, easy read (I think it took me 3 hours total, if that), so it didn't bother me too much that it wasn't a terribly good book. And, I liked Fred enough, and was interested enough in the continuing plot, that I'll probably end up reading the other two Fred the Mermaid books. While it's far from a glowing review, it was a fun little read and I'm glad I picked it up at the bookstore.

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