I feel like a DNF machine lately. After mentioning my issues with this book on Twitter several people @ replied me with a decided lack of enthusiasm. Nora Roberts’ The Collector is not a hit and so say we all. Or at least those of us that said it. She’s got a great premise here, working with the classic Rear Window model. It falls apart under the weight of too much coincidence, no sense of place and a heroine who should own about thirty cats. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of my best friends own excessive numbers of cats. I’m tempted to tell a story about how one tucks hers in at night but let us just walk away from this intact, shall we?)
Our heroine Lila is a woman with little backstory but mad skills. She writes books (ugh) and housesits for a living. Lila likes to people watch, and by people watch I mean spy on strangers with binoculars and speculate on their lives. Lila is creepy. One day she watches someone get shoved out a window and the NYPD enter her life. (A super helpful not at all crazy suspicious NYPD because everyone in this story is rich and white.)
Lila HAPPENS to be at the police station checking up on the murder she HAPPENED to see when the brother of the alleged murderer is there doing the same thing. He befriends her and HAPPENS to be one of her favorite artists, acquainted with her BFF who HAPPENS to be the secret ex-wife of his BFF. Lila met said BFF when they HAPPENED to join the same gym and talk about their man, who HAPPENED to be BFF’s second husband. Lila started the affair with BFF’s second husband when they HAPPENED to share a cab on a rainy day and he failed to disclose his marital status. I HAPPENED to lose all interest in anything further occurring between these people who live in the smallest slice of NYC ever created.
While Lila housesits, Ashton (the brother of the maybe murderer and a fabulously rich artist from a wide spread lovingly dysfunctional family) owns an entire building in the general area of Lila’s current abode. He’s pretty much an ass. Half his time is complaining about various relatives and the other half is failing to respect other’s boundaries. His sisters leave something at his place? He throws it out after 90 days. (You’re rich. Keep Priority Mail boxes on hand.) Lila drops by with a muffin? Start eating it without asking if it’s yours. Tell her she should’ve bought two before begrudgingly breaking off half of the semi eaten whole. He’s the sort of artist who MUST paint his muses, even if they don’t want to pose (ugh) and not only obsesses over their gypsy (ugh) qualities, but buys them a flamenco costume to pose in. Spoiler alert: I didn’t like him.
Anyway, of COURSE Ashton’s brother is not the real killer and of COURSE the real killer might kill them so of COURSE the fabulously rich artist dude decides to launch his own investigation into the murder. He and Lila get all cloak and dagger with destroying the evidence chain so as to make anything they discover completely inadmissible. Ashton’s reason for this is that the police are bad at sharing. (Dude! Whose muffin is that in your mouth??) Of COURSE the antiquity Ashton’s brother had is a (possibly) incredibly rare one. Look, I came up in the antique trade. People will shoot you for fifty bucks, twenty on a bad day. You don’t need the rarest of rare shiny things for a murder. It’s a weird enough world on it’s own. (Remind me to tell you about the day I sold a live mouse.) I dropped out at 27%, chapter 7, something like that. I barely made it that far on Lila alone. Listen to how she talks!
“Thanks. I’ve never seen one just like that.” Luke nodded toward her Leatherman.
“Three hundred essential tools all in one handy package. I don’t know how anyone lives without one.” She folded it, set it aside.
“I’m a big fan of duct tape.”
She smiled at Luke. “Its infinite uses have yet to be fully discovered.” She looked back at Ash. “It’s good to have a friend.” – The Collector by Nora Roberts
You know what’s sexier than a woman fixing your friend’s eyeglasses and then patronizingly giving you the verbal attaboy for basic life skills? APPARENTLY NOTHING. This entire passage was a wasted opportunity of the words Leatherman and Duct Tape. Five minutes prior Lila was soulfully agreeing with Ashton’s choice of Luke to help him through the hard times, because it’s good to have someone when it’s hard. I CAN’T EVEN WITH THIS GIRL. She should either pretend to deliver a pizza or toss Ashton a MilkBone. Either way, I was out.
*This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.