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Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Lawrence Light

Karen Glick series:
Fear and Greed by Lawrence Light
Too Rich to Live by Lawrence Light

To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.

Too Rich to Live by Lawrence Light Fear and Greed by Lawrence Light Lawrence Light, Too Rich to Live (Karen Glick #1)
Lawrence Light, Fear and Greed (Karen Glick #2)

According to the biographical information included with Lawrence Light's Karen Glick thrillers, the author is a senior editor at Forbes Magazine and an award-winning journalist. Unfortunately, based on my experience with these two novels (Too Rich to Live and Fear and Greed), Light also writes fiction like a journalist, getting all the facts out with a spare prose style that leaves little room for atmosphere or any real sense of his personality.

In Too Rich to Live, the story focuses on Karen Glick's first chance to do a really serious feature story after being stuck with fluff pieces for most of her career. The Billionaire Boys Club (not the Judd Nelson TV movie) are four financial giants who make their money buying up companies and then cleaning house. Edward Danton, one of their past marks, has made it his job to wipe out these four "boys" one by one. Karen gets involved when someone sends her magazine information about the murders. (The similarity in name to Edmond Dantes, the hero of The Count of Monte Cristo, is deliberate -- it's one of Light's favorite novels. I have to respect a man who appreciates Dumas.)

An interesting premise, but all in all, Too Rich to Live was a real struggle to get through. With its caricaturish villains and despicable victims (who probably do deserve to die) added to Karen's crazy family (hippie parents and a grandmother who spouts random anagrams that have to be forced to fit the story), it's hard to find anyone to really relate to. Karen is the only character who seems the least like a real person (I imagine Light has put a lot of himself into her), and she is only following these other losers around because either she's related to them, or her job depends on it.

Light's second novel, Fear and Greed, is no better. He has at least gotten rid of Karen's weird family members, but he's given us another weird family to take their place. The Reiner sisters -- techie Flo, sensible Ginny, and flamboyant Linda -- are the masterminds behind Goldring, a computer program that predicts the movements of the stock market with such accuracy that the sisters have achieved the unthinkable: a 7,000 percent return on their investments. That they're not smart enough to realize that this makes them immediate targets for murder and theft is only part of the problem.

The rest of the problem is that Light's writing has not developed over the year and a half since Too Rich to Live hit bookstores. He still falls into the trap of telling his readers directly what would be better shown through his characters. Not that his characters could handle the responsibility -- everyone but Karen Glick, his heroine, is composed of a single personality trait or, at worst, a deliberately quirky name. In another literary homage, several characters in Fear and Greed are named after the gods in Wagner's operatic cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. It's an admirable idea, but he needs to learn when to use a little restraint -- to those who don't get the joke, the names just come off as silly. (I suppose I should be grateful he wasn't inspired by that other Ring series.)

Light may develop into a better novelist over time -- he has some good ideas and a definite sense of pacing -- but he'll need to spend more time making his characters into real people, and make his jokes an organic growth of the situation and not just a series of unfunny one-liners only Michael Scott from the American series of The Office would find funny.

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