Most helpful critical review
Didn't Ring True
on August 1, 2000
I will read anything Linda Howard writes but All the King's Men left me feeling let down, cheated, irritated, cranky, out-of-sorts and mad. I didn't thrown it against the wall, but I was tempted. Oh yes, I was tempted.
A lot of stuff in this book irritated me but I think the main problem was that *none* of the scenes in France rang true to me. The sex scene(s) didn't strike me as hot & sexy but as irresponsible & stupid. Then there were all the little jarring details that pulled me out of the story, such as people staying in Paris and flying to Lyon rather than taking the TGV. Come on, would you fly from DC to Philly or would you take Amtrak? And despite some people's misconceptions (probably due to watching too many Pink Panther movies), France does have a competent national police force and it's inconceivable to me that John Medina could steal two cars and drive south through the Rhone valley and across Provence to Nice without having to deal with the police, even once, routinely. Where were the random traffic road blocks on back roads that are a part of daily life here in the south of France? What about the surveillance traffic cameras positioned on the major routes? What about the police stationed at toll booths on the autoroutes?
And it didn't stop there. The descriptions of old town Nice and the old harbor were totally unrecognizable to me. Maybe Howard was fictionalizing Nice for the sake of her story and actually describing somewhere else in the Cote d'Azur?
But the ending was what really made me mad. The stupidity of John and Neima leaving their "safe boat" to go sight seeing in this fictional Nice moved them right into the "too stupid to live" category as far as I was concerned. And after the shoot-out every one just walks away? No international diplomatic incident? No unpleasant repercussions with the local police -- who once again are conspicuous by their absence? No CNN, BBC, LC1, FTV1 broadcasters or "Nice Matin" newspaper reporters chasing after what would be the local story of the year -- a shoot-out in the densely populated and hyper touristy old town section of a major resort town (Nice) in a country (France) that has strong gun control laws? Excccuuuuuseeee ME?
You see, I live in France and if any American CIA agent were really so personally and sexually irresponsible that he/she opted to steal an innocent local's car, drive cross country jeopardizing his mission (stealing another local's car in route); and then having reached safety, stupidly compromised that safety again and further endangered other innocent folks lives rather than pausing at the first village he reached, using the first phone he saw, to request a quick, quiet pickup and flight out of the country, then I would want that CIA agent *LOCKED UP*.
So you see, this book really did not work for me. For someone just discovering Howard, I would say forget this one and pick up one of her other books. For me, I'll keep reading her, but I hope that in future she sticks to the U.S. for her book settings...