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Spotlight on: Monstrosity by Edward Lee

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Monstrosity by Edward Lee Edward Lee, Monstrosity

You have to admire a man who can go from writing about the most wonderful things happening to one woman to writing about the most horrible things happening to another, giving both events equal importance. And that's exactly what Edward Lee does for the first hundred pages of Monstrosity.

When Clare Prentiss was raped while serving in the Air Force, an assumed conspiracy found her on the wrong end of a dishonorable discharge, making her virtually unemployable. reduced to testing deodorants for food money, her immediate life goal was merely to build up enough protein to be able to move up to selling her plasma. While walking around in the hot sun for the sake of the test, she is offered the job of her life: head of security at a cancer research clinic located on half of a natural reserve. Free housing, a free SUV, and all the gourmet coffee she can drink.

But if the job is so great, what happened to the three-person security staff that left all together without giving their notice? And what's going on in B-Wing that is so important that it is better protected than the heavily-opium-derived pharmaceutical supply? Clare doesn't even know how close she is to reliving the past that still haunts her dreams.

If Edward Lee offers something that's better than it should be, watch out, because a lot of people are going to die, gruesomely, and lovingly depicted in Lee's garish yet smooth prose. He always rides the line of bad taste, yet seems to know just when to back off and avoid the descent into unintentional humor (unlike the recent output of Michael Slade). That he doesn't rely on overkill to get his point across in Monstrosity shows how Lee's writing has matured in the ten years since writing The Chosen, the only other work I had read of his. In a genre notorious for seemingly inadvertent misogyny, he manages to create female characters who know their own minds, and even offers up a little social commentary regarding the military's treatment of the environment.

However, one downside of having that book fresh in my memory was that it was patently obvious the two share a similar basic setup: a woman's life is turned upside down and she is then, out of the blue, offered the job of her dreams. (The Chosen's Vera Abbot becomes the manager of an exclusive hotel restaurant after she finding her fiancee with two other women.) A couple of other flaws dampen the proceedings -- one being the cliched mouthy villain who, if he had a therapist, wouldn't need to explain his motivations to his victims, and the other being that a major plot thread isn't tied up satisfactorily.

But despite these surface shortcomings, even at nearly 400 pages, Monstrosity is a blazing fast read, a real rip-snorter. The author doesn't allow the pace to flag (even during the "quieter" scenes, relatively speaking), and the inimitable Lee charm is present on every page, making it a must-read for fans.

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