Sep 7 2012
Dear Ms. Kinsey:
I confess that my expectations of this book may have played a part in how I ultimately felt and my grade. If this is a romance, I don’t think it succeeds. If it is viewed as a police procedure/serial killer story, it’s a bit more successful.
Red should be billed as an erotic thriller with a low hum of a romance underlying the story. The story is told primarily from Tom Hanson’s point of view, a male cop who investigates a series of murders involving individuals who participate in the BDSM lifestyle. Some of the story delves into how a vanilla guy could get into the lifestyle for the woman he loves, but I didn’t buy into that emotional conflict.
Nearly all the sex scenes in the story involve a party who is a victim and not Hanson or the female protagonist. It’s “erotic” tag comes from the explicitness of those scenes rather than any scenes between the main couple. I think the sex scenes were supposed to reveal the perverseness as viewed by the killer and in a book that was to elevate the BDSM lifestyle, I thought that was an odd choice.
Hanson was originally partnered with a female Gina Larsen. They were partners for seven years and lovers for three, but their relationship died a slow death when Hanson wasn’t able to meet Gina’s need to be dominated or, perhaps (and this is less clear), her desire to dominate. Gina left the force when it was revealed she was a professional dominatrix. Hanson seeks her out when it is discovered that the murder he is investigating might have some connection to the BDSM community.
The partner of Hanson is initially portrayed as a homophobic, racist, misogynist detective. He spouts off racist things to a young black attendant; makes offensive gay jokes. Yet he isn’t consistently portrayed as a loud mouthed who can’t reign in his inappropriate thoughts. Later he’s shown to be a keen detective who can manipulate a witness accurately and with insight which, of course, makes the gratuitous early portrayal all the more offensive. As in, what is the point of inserting a few racist and homophobic jokes if it isn’t going to be part of any storyline? Is it to show how gritty and brave the author is?
Inconsistency carries itself into the police procedure part of the story. The BDSM community is portrayed very tight lipped and it would seem natural that they would shy away from any type of media, even to their detriment. Gina waltzes into a private club with two cops and begins to ask questions during an activity night. Later Gina is shown witnessing an autopsy and participating in a swat team bust/arrest of a suspect, all of these despite the fact she is no longer a member of the police force and was pushed out in disgrace.
The sex that Gina likes is hard edged, mean and viscious. She pushes the opposing party to the limit – insulting him, calling him names, striking him, and she likes the violence in return. In one part of the story, Gina goads Hanson and he ultimately rapes her. He calls it a rape after they are done. During the act, he thinks “he didn’t give a fuck what she wanted” but of course, it is sold as orgasmic.
As stated before, the sex in the story is all fairly disturbing and I had a hard time seeing the love in it, even when the one party sought out the pain and degradation. The path to true domination for Hanson was raping Gina and discovering they both liked it? Why was that within his boundaries now, but not two years prior? If they broke up over his inability to be a dom, their reconciliation made no sense.
The ending had a big twist and I was, again, confused about the messaging behind the story. I think if a reader goes in expecting that this is not a romance then the outcome might be different. For me, however, I was just stuck on believability, consistency issues pertaining to both the relationship and the police procedure. C