The Desperate Game, by Jayne Castle

>> Friday, April 28, 2006

The four books in Jayne Ann Krentz's Guinevere Jones series (written under her Jayne Castle pseudonym) are some of her hardest to find titles. Looking through ebay and amazon auctions, I see they go for some nice sums. I like JAK, but considering some of her old books are a bit iffy, there's no way I would pay that much for these books! Fortunately, a friend managed to find copies much cheaper than that, and she allowed me to borrow them. The first is The Desperate Game.

Unlikely Partners - In Love and in Danger

Guinevere Jones - Smart, savvy, and something else to see. She was an independent operator until Zac enlisted her secret services and ignited a desire for adventure and romance.

Zachariah Justis - The dark, rugged private eye thought he could use Gwen, then let her go. But forcing her to become his personal spy meant stepping into his own trap to discover the perfect partner in danger and in love.
The dynamic duo follows a baffling trail of high-voltage video game clues to solve a computer crime and catch a cunning high-tech killer.
If you like Moonlighting... If Remington Steele turns you on... That's part of the presentation of this series, and it does have a bit of that feel to it. A really fun book, vintage JAK. A B+.

Guinevere Jones, owner of small temp agency Camelot Services is not amused when she's approached by fellow small-businessowner Zacariah Justis. Zac has just opened his security consulting agency, and he's investigating some disappearing shipments for computer company StarrTech. Gwen had done a bit of temping there herself a few months earlier, and Zac blackmails her into going back and being her inside "man", using the knowledge that while working at StarrTech, she'd done some massaging of the companies benefits program and taken it for some $2.000.

As Zac and Guinevere work together to find out what's going on (or rather, Zac works both at finding out and at trying to keep Gwen from doing some investigating of her own into the fate of one of the programmers, who seems to have disappeared), they realize they may have more in common that they thought at first.

Oh, this was great! I was a bit leery when I started it because I've been burnt by some old JAKs, but Zac is fortunately not one of the old asshole alphas she sometimes wrote in the 80s. He's an alpha, yes, but he's an ok guy. I think he actually reminded me of of the hero from Smoke in Mirrors, Thomas, a guy who knows he's not very exciting or sophisticated, with a solemn, serious manner and a sense of humour that takes a bit of getting used to.

And Guinevere is cool, too. I liked how she's this sensible, proactive small businesswoman, who's more than a match for Zac. I was, however, a bit bothered by her gothic heroine tendencies. Like the gothic heroines of old, she's fond of getting herself into dangerous situations for no reason, even when Zac, who really is the expert in the investigative area, has told her to stay put. And her explorations tend to backfire and not help, but hinder the investigation. Still, she didn't irritate me enough to be a real bother.

The romance was great, but you really should start reading this knowing that what you'll get here is just the beginning of a relationship. If I had no way of getting the other books, it would have pissed me off, but since I've got all of them and I *know* that the romance will continue there, it didn't bother me at all. Anyway, it's quite a nice beginning. JAK gets the chemistry right, and I liked how being with Gwen assuages Zac's loneliness and sense of being disconnected from the world.

I also very much enjoyed the humour. There are plenty of running jokes throughout the book, like about different management styles, and about Guinevere constantly cadging free lunches from Zac, and Zac being a "frog", and that kind of thing, and I thought JAK had the perfect touch with it. None of the jokes got old, and they remained funny until the end.

I was really intrigued by the glimpse into the world of computer games in the 80s. This is important: you have to know when you start reading this that it was written in 1986, so it's best to approach it as a kind of period piece, and not expect it to be completely contemporary. I had lots of fun with this. I'm sure for the people who read it at the time this would have felt impossibly cutting edge and modern, but well, what I imagined when I pictured the Elf Hunt game were the graphics from the games I was playing... well, not at the time, because 20 years ago Uruguay was at least 10 years behind the US in that area, so in 1986 all I was doing with my Spectrum computer was playing with Logo and loading a really basic Scrabble game through my cassette player, but maybe 10 years later? Stuff like Laura Bow or the early King's Quests? And that would be more quaint than cutting edge right now, of course!

Anyway, that was a fun element, as was the the whole role of the game, Elf Hunt, in the suspense subplot. Not particularly believable, but fun.

I can't wait to read the rest of the series, to see what it's like. The next three books are:

The Chilling Deception
The Sinister Touch
The Fatal Fortune


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