The Case of the Missing Boyfriend, by Nick Alexander

Article published on February 27, 2012.

You may think you’re picking up the average chick-lit when you slide this sleek novel from the bookshelves. You may think you know exactly what you’re getting for your twelve pound ninety-nine. But think again. Chick-lit, as a genre, revolves around a hapless twenty-nine-year-old, who gets into pickle after pickle, can’t hold a relationship together if her life depended on it (often it does), the disasters go from silly to unbelievable, and then all is cleared up at the end as she loses weight, gets her career moving and finds the love of her life. It’s all a little predictable, you say. But I’ll tell you this. If the alternative is The Case of the Missing Boyfriend, I’ll take a scrappy chick-lit any day.

The problem with Alexander’s offering is that it has no tension. The forty-year-old heroine has an average life, in which very mundane things happen. She brushes her teeth, washes her hair, goes to work, has mildly anxiety-provoking episodes there that quickly resolve themselves, and she goes out in the evening with her bevy of gay friends. Her past has certain unresolved issues, yes. But even these are not threatening her sanity, or making her stalk someone who is completely wrong for her. No. They merely need a bit of therapy to sort themselves out.

So, basically, Alexander misses the first rule of writing good fiction – start with a source of conflict, and then up the tension all the way to the end. Oh, yes, and there’s not really a story here either. Every humdrum conversation, all dreary thoughts that CC – the protagonist – has about her life are repeated in the book. Like, word to word.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit…” I say.
Victor shrugs. “It’s not as if we see each every day,” he says.
“No.”
“When was it?”
“When? Oh…March,” I say. “No, February. After that photography exhibition.”
“Of course,” he says. “That was a crazy evening.”
“It was.”
“Anyway, I suppose we’re not here to…What seems to be the problem?”
I run my tongue across my top teeth. “I really don’t think this is…I mean, you know Darren, and everything and…I don’t really feel that comfortable…”

Zzzzzz. And it’s not even as if the novel is making a point about the tedium of everyday life. There are four hundred very long pages of just such situations and conversations that go nowhere. Not that it isn’t like real life. It is. But the problem is that a piece of good fiction needs to go beyond everyday life, to offer a heightened sense of reality. And this one doesn’t. That said, I think Alexander has potential as a writer. But he does need a darned good editor.

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