Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Book Review: The Big Kahuna by Janet Evanovich and Peter Evanovich (Fox and O'Hare #6)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The plot is fun at times
Cons: Characters are bad, pacing is uneven
The Bottom Line:
Nick and Kate are back
In name only.  Characters
Nothing like we know

The Big Letdown

I’m not normally a Janet Evanovich reader, but I made an exception for the Fox and O’Hare series because of the co-writer, Lee Goldberg.  I’ve been a fan of his books for a long time.  I found the first five books in the series to be fun capers, and it is nice to get outside my normal cozy sub-genre every so often.  Book five in the series came out almost three years ago, but I’ve been tracking The Big Kahuna, the sixth in the series.  Its release kept being delayed, and I noticed that Janet’s son, Peter, was now listed as the co-author.  Undeterred, I requested it from the library.  I’m glad that is how I got the book.

If you are new to the series, Kate O’Hare is an FBI agent who spent years of her career tracking down master thief and conman Nick Fox.  However, once captured, Nick offers his services to the FBI, and Kate reluctantly starts working with him quietly as they concoct elaborate cons to take down dangerous criminals that couldn’t be touched any other way.  Meanwhile, the two slowly begin to admit their growing feelings for each other.

Or at least that was the premise for the first five books in the series.

This book finds the pair asked to look for a tech billionaire known to pretty much everyone as The Big Kahuna.  He disappeared a few days ago, but Kate and Nick are shocked to find that both his wife and his business partner are already hoping to have him declared dead.  Kate and Nick aren’t willing to declare him dead yet; they think he might be hiding out in Hawaii.  With Kate’s father and Cosmo, another FBI agent, tagging along, they set out to see if they can find him.  However, it appears someone wants The Big Kahuna dead.  Can they find him in time?  Or will they lead the killers right to him?

Fans of the series can already spot the big complaint with this book.  This is not a Fox and O’Hare plot.  Yes, we do pull off a couple of small cons, but nowhere near the big scale con that would require Nick’s skills, and we don’t need any of the regular crew to pull them off.  Any detective can hunt for a missing person which is really what happens here, and that’s not what Nick and Kate do.

Then there are the characters.  Kate is supposed to be a take no prisoners FBI agent who is one of the best agents in the country.  Here, Nick takes the lead on most of what they do, and Kate lets him, relying on him to make all the decisions.  Yes, he used to take the lead on the cons, but Kate would lead on other parts of each mission.  They had a dynamic that worked well with both of them bring something to the partnership, but that isn’t the case here at all.  Furthermore, their romantic relationship seems to have backtracked about four books.  Granted, it’s been three years since I read book 5, so I am hazy about how that book left things, but I seem to remember them being a couple, at least much as they could since they couldn’t acknowledge they were working together in public.  Now, we are back to Nick flirting with a Kate who doesn’t want to have anything more than she has to with him.

Speaking of being seen in public, they also have meetings in the FBI together, and fly a commercial flight together, again things they never would have done in previous books.

I’ve said in the past that the characters have never been the strong point of the series, but clearly there was something to the characters in the past if I feel this strongly about Kate and Nick.  Kate’s father, likewise, becomes a caricature of his former self with some moments that are very out of character for him.  Cosmo was in the earlier books, but he only had a scene or two, which was good since he is funny in extremely small doses.  We get too much of him here.  And the new characters?  They are all one note jokes, per se, and those notes are used as much as possible to try to get us to laugh.  They would have been funny in small doses, but not as major characters.

Then there’s the plot.  It starts off slowly with long passages describing places in Hawaii.  Granted, they made me want to visit the islands, but it also took much longer than it needed to at times.  They could have cut out 30 pages easily and the book already reads short as it is.  I did find myself getting into the story at times, and I cared enough to want to know how it ended.  There are some fun action sequences – improbable but still fun.  I was able to devote quite a bit of time to reading it over a weekend, which definitely helped.  If it had dragged on for too much longer, I would have gotten very frustrated with it.

Clearly, the fact that this book took so long to come out wasn’t to work out issues with the story to make it stronger.  I don’t know if any further books in the series are planned, but The Big Kahuna might be it for me, even if I can get further books from the library.

If you want some fun capers, do go back and check out the earlier books in the Fox and O’Hare series.

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