REVIEW: Me, Myself and Why by MaryJanice Davidson
Dear Ms. Davidson,
I was first introduced to you via your paranormals – particularly the “Undead and…” series of books. While perusing Amazon in the after-Christmas haze of “I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket,” I came across one of your older books (2010 publication) that I’d forgotten I read back in the days of real, paper books. While not paranormal, “Me, Myself and Why?” IS romance and borders on the absolute insanity normally found in your vampire novels.
Cadence Jones is an FBI agent in a little-known, semi-mythical sub-department of the agency known as BOFFO – Bureau of False Flag Ops. Cadence is joined in crime fighting by her two sisters – Adrienne and Shiro. There’s a teeny tiny problem – all three women share the same body. BOFFO is actually the home for trained agents who have all manner of clinically diagnosed mental illnesses – from Multiple Personality Disorder (Cadence and her sisters, of course) to sociopathy (her partner, George) to agoraphobia, kleptomania and a host of other challenges. While most would quail at putting weapons in the hands of the so-called insane, they’ve proven their worth in the ability to think outside the box, so to speak, and to see the things in the special cases that other agents might miss. The premise is simple – it’s a variation on “use a thief to catch a thief.” Which brings us to Cadence’ latest case – a serial killer who’s crossed state lines and whose kills only show up three at a time. The killer is escalating – the murders are now taking place in Cadence’ hometown of Minneapolis – the Jones sisters’ therapist is making loud noises about reintegrating the trio, and George is acting like more of a pain in the ass than usual. What’s a girl to do, other than let her other personalities out to catch the murderer?
To say I was a little dubious about the premise is putting it mildly. Having someone suffering from a potentially crippling mental illness as a protagonist is a little ballsy, to say the least. Not only that, but it’s very easy, especially for someone so well known for more comedic leanings, to unintentionally err on the side of exaggeration – if not flat out mockery. Yet, given the mystery / romance / comedy flair of the book, the topic of mental illness, not just multiple personalities, was handled with a surprisingly light and delicate touch – sensitively, even. Granted, some of the other agents in the unit are a little over the top – George, in particular. But strangely enough, it works. Of course, the reader has to suspend disbelief just a tiny bit to believe there’s a government agency that allows its employees to live in the office, sleeping in the closets, or on the roof in tents, gives guns to those who wouldn’t pass a background check on the best of days, using someone else’s credentials, and can magically get agents who “act out” free from the clutches of local authorities. If that disbelief can be appropriately suspended (without being choked to death), the story actually –works-.
I think the thing that may be disconcerting for most readers is the shifting voices when the different personalities take “front.” While there’s a very distinct difference between Cadence and Shiro, both of their voices seem, for lack of a better term, normal. It’s the same type of internal monologue one might expect in just about any book. However, when one gets to Adrienne, things get more than a little strange. It’s not just the highly irregular formatting of the type, or the repetition of certain nursery rhymes that can be off-putting, but the sheer bizarre, almost alien nature of Adrienne’s personality. There were times when her narrative gave me goose-bumps. I could just about imagine looking into her eyes and seeing nothing but “something’s gonna die screaming.”
The fact that the romance element is subtle and not the star of the show is also a plus for me. Patrick, the love interest, is the much older brother of Cathie, Cadence’ best friend, and the head of a baking empire – much to the delight of all the Jones sisters. He’s also a bit of a flirt, a bit of a jerk, and likely as crazy as the entire BOFFO brigade put together. While he doesn’t play a huge role in the plot, he’s a pleasant distraction, no matter how many times Adrienne leaves him, ah, indisposed somewhere. It may be worth noting, too, that I kept misreading Adrienne’s name as “Ariadne.” And all I could think of was to liken that personality to a criminally insane spider with absolutely no impulse control. No prey wandered into the web? No problem! Adrienne will quite happily skip off to drag some, kicking and screaming, back to the web, feast, and then belatedly remember she was supposed to wrap her meal up in webbing FIRST. Then she’ll shrug it off and leave the mess for the others to clean up.
Now, with the good always comes the slightly-less-than. While, on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the book (and have already started on the sequel), there were times the same road was repaved, ad nauseum. After the third or fourth repetition that the Jones sisters have MPD, I wanted to yell “we get it already, she has MPD!” For my tastes, while the topic was sensitively handled, it was also an iron spike hammered into my brain with a particularly cute Jimmy Choo. Those words may have been better spent developing the mystery a touch more or exploring the relationship(s?) between Patrick and the Jones sisters. I mean, come on, the fact that he’s living an episode of Sister Wives: Fatal Attraction merits a bit more real estate than is afforded in the novel. That’s a complete plot in and of itself, and a source of potentially endless amusement! I did appreciate the fact that Cadence’ bisexuality was handled as a simple matter of fact rather than bled for the novelty – but I also wanted a little more beyond what was given. I also wanted to see a bit more development of the plot. While things felt fairly well researched, there were some potholes that needed filling in.
Thank you for offering us something a little new and a little different! This certainly isn’t a typical anything – not a cozy mystery, not a contemporary romance. It doesn’t quite fit into any one specific category – which is utterly refreshing. C
Loving When the Insanity is Normal,