Friday, September 3, 2010

Caught in the Middle by Gayle Roper

book cover

Caught in the Middle
by Gayle Roper

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 1997

Source: Bought at my local library's book sale.

Back Cover Description:
A corpse was not what Merry was looking for when she opened the car trunk.

Things like this just don't happen to real people, she thought. But Merry Kramer is new in town--and has yet to discover what hides behind the smiling faces of the residents of Amhearst, Pennsylvania.

As a staff reporter for a local newspaper, Merry finds the job contrasts incredible: as shocking as finding a body one routine as writing a human interest story on a local artist the next day. But when another death is discovered, suspicion begins to dawn.....and seemingly inconsequential choices forge a link that make Merry the next target.

Merry realizes she knows something the murderer wants to keep hidden. The question is, what? The next question is, can she survive long enough to find out?

Caught in the Middle is a humorous mystery. However, since Merry had no common sense, I didn't enjoy the novel very much. The great majority of the danger she was in came from her doing stupid things--like antagonizing someone who just admitted to killing someone in a fit of anger. And Merry often knew that what she was doing wasn't wise and went against common sense, but she did it anyway.

The mystery also wasn't very difficult to figure out. Merry had to actually be told the answer, and then the author tried to get cute and kept having the characters refer to the guy hunting her as "him" rather than by name, as though it was some big secret that she wasn't going to let the reader in on. I found that annoying.

I also didn't like the "hero." Merry had just freed herself from a verbally abusive jerk boyfriend only to pick up a "nice, wonderful Christian guy" who did things he knew annoyed her, always ordered her around like she had no brain (and she had a brain, just no common sense), didn't listen to her, and was otherwise just as bad as her last boyfriend. I did like that she didn't follow his orders, but the problem was that sometimes they were sensible ones, and he never learned that ordering her around would backfire.

Finally, there were some problems with the suspense scenes. For example, Merry was wearing a thick scarf wound 1.5 times over her neck but was quickly almost strangled to death. It's hard enough to strangle someone without thick padding in the way.

All that said, if you're into cheerfully get-herself-into-trouble heroines with spunk, you'll probably enjoy this novel. It's otherwise well written, it just happened to hit all my pet peeves.

Merry and several other characters were Christians, and it was portrayed as a part of their lifestyle. Merry prayed for help, mused about how she ought to be trusting God instead of worrying, and so on. The end got a little preachy, though, when two characters lectured each other about how they really needed to forgive and let go. While true, neither had asked for the other's opinion.

There was no sex. I don't recall any bad language. Overall, it was humorous, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"It was a dark and sleety night," I muttered as I slid behind the wheel and slammed the car door, grateful to have reached protection without drowning. I tossed my briefcase onto the seat and shook the water out of my rain-frizzed hair.

"Merrileigh Kramer, what have you done?" my mother had asked in horror when I'd had my waist-length hair drastically cut at summer's end on the new-look, new-person theory.

I'd looked in the mirror and wondered the same thing myself. I hadn't cut my hair, except for its annual split-ends trimming, since ninth grade. For a woman who hated change, I'd done a very drastic thing when I entered that beauty parlor. And it had only been step one.

Now my hand bounced on my curly mass like a kid on a trampoline. I sighed and reminded myself that it'd grow eventually. The only trouble was that I had to keep it curly until it grew. I didn't know what else to do with it.

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