I’ve been thinking a lot about what The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl have done to the publishing landscape because I just finished two books with complicated/damaged/bad girl/bad ass heroines: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz and The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman. On the one hand I’m grateful for interesting protagonists who are women, but on the other hand, I’ve read an awful lot books with women characters like these.
The Passenger is a very old-fashioned noir-movie-feeling kind of story told by Tanya, a woman on the run for 10 years that changes her identity quite a few times during the short book. Lutz jumps around in time and slowly reveals what happened about 10 years before the present when the main character first went on the lam. I kind of liked the spare narration, I kind of liked the odd steps along the way (she became a teacher in a remote Texas town), and I liked the ins and outs of transforming her appearance, but the plot reveals felt predictable to me just because I’ve read and seen a lot of noir like this.
The Murderer’s Daughter, like The Passenger, involves some disguises (just like Elisabeth Salander) and a slow reveal of the main character’s backstory that led her from a very troubled childhood to being a super-successful therapist to post traumatic stress sufferers. It feels like a very Kellerman story because the psychologist’s training and the psychologist’s work feel real and very detailed, but the story went off the rails a bit for me at the end. The villain is super-heinous, the main character is super-heroic, but it’s kind of an empty ending.
Both stories felt like they were jamming a super-hero arc into it, Lutz’s by overcoming a lot of people who sent her on the lam and Kellerman’s by having a ridiculously over-the-top villain for the psychologist-turned-freelance-investigator to confront. I wish the last section of each book hadn’t been so over-the-top.
Disclosure: I received review copies from the publisher.