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The Exchange: 01/26/09
Reviews of The Exchange by Inga C. Ellzey seem to be spread across an inverted bell curve; people either hate it or love it. I certainly didn't love it but I don't hate it either. The plot is tight, the locations were interesting and the characters weren't the typical romantic mystery cast. Despite all of these good elements, somehow they don't gel into the enjoyable novel it should be.
Things started to go awry for me at the close of the first chapter. First there is Frances, an author who is going on a cruise to write her final novel. To spice things up and add realism, she has agreed to participate in a smuggling ring. Frances's story got my attention and I wanted to see it play out.
Unfortunately, just as she's asleep on the plane, we flash to Jewelle, the heroine pictured on the cover. She's in the witness protection program, hiding from the mob (of course!) but she's been given the chance at one last moment of freedom and happiness with a month long cruise in the Mediterranean. Her situation seems so implausible that I really wanted her to be Frances's invention. That hope is later dashed when the two women become friends on the ship.
Most of the remainder of the novel is set on the ship and its full of the day to day events during a cruise. I've been on a cruise and frankly the long passages describing the ship quickly became tedious to read. What adds to the tedium is the characters' lengthy dialogue paragraphs and paragraphs of exposition and goodness knows what else. Sure, I've had to sit through some long one sided conversations but I don't want sit through that in a mystery. Mysteries are supposed to be about the caper and the danger (either real or imagined) to the main characters.
Three quarters through the novel that danger finally arrives. Of course, a trusted friend has ties to Jewelle's enemies. By the time all this finally got rolling, I didn't care except to know that I was almost done.
There were parts I did enjoy. I liked Frances. I wanted to see more of her. She reminded me of a toned down version of Elizabeth Jones (also an author) from The Copenhagen Connection. I liked the unfortunately named lesbian, Randy, who had me singing "Randy, Randy" from the old Electric Company. I even liked Randy's cantankerous mother, Sarah. But all their plots are secondary to Jewelle's escapades even though her part of the novel is the most unbelievable plot line.