Frank Paine is an ex-Hollywood actor who’s traded in his action hero title for that of a real hero in the FBI. However, on his first case his off-screen past as the King of Paine is somehow linked to a rape case and from here we follow Paine down the rabbit hole.
Firstly, let me say there’s a lot to like about about King of Paine. The writing is smooth; the chapter’s short; the plot well-paced with many little dead-ends, mysteries and revelations. I would be surprised if too many readers accurately picked the ‘who’ in this whodunnit before the characters themselves.
Essentially, we follow two parallel story lines: that of Frank Paine the FBI agent and that of the Pulitzer Prize journalist, Roger Martin. The plots remain seemingly disparate until they converge in the latter part of the book. I found both main characters pretty well fleshed out and interesting to follow through the novel. Both are damaged and looking for redemption of some kind. Paine is attempting to create himself a new life to defeat his addition to sex and to redeem himself from a selfish act that destroyed the career of his lover. Martin is a well-regarded journalist whose lover was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and whose meltdown left him medicated and washed out, but eventually pushed to recapture his passion for investigative journalism.
There is an undercurrent of the seedier side of chat rooms and cyber sex along with one or two fantasies played out in the real world. However, if you’re worried about hardcore pornographic scenes – don’t be. Although, the plot flirts with the world of BDSM, we’re only really presented with fairly tame variants. However, it did make the plot pretty interesting and I didn’t really feel that the author was forcing the topics into the storyline just for sake of titillation.
So what did I find less appealing? It would have to be believability. When reading a fiction book, I’m expecting a certain suspension of disbelief. However, in a real-world mystery novel, I’m expecting a fairly high level of plausibility as well. Not everyone has this concern, but it’s something that can impact my enjoyment of the story telling.
Firstly, Frank Paine as an action hero in-therapy sex addict who has become an FBI agent is off-the-charts unbelievable. There is no way the FBI would accept this guy past the very first stage of application. And even if the FBI entertained the idea of hiring a Hollywood actor, I just can’t see how his sexual addiction would remain hidden during background checks and/or psych evaluations which are sure to be standard agency procedure.
Additionally, the interplay between rookie Paine and the his superiors in the agency is again, unbelievable. I just can’t swallow the amount of latitude he was given, especially given his fairly obvious connection to the case and his increasing level of insubordination. Lack of believability is also present when Paine’s former lover forgives him far too quickly and when the agents are foiled in a supposedly well-staged set-up in the botanical gardens – a scene that importantly leads to suspicions that add interest to the plot but at the cost of basic plausibility.
I could live with all of this, and the final revelations and twists did make for a entertaining and somewhat unpredictable read. However, my overall enjoyment was diminished enough by the plausibility issues that it has impacted my scoring.
I will confess, I looked at some review extracts before finalising my score for this book. I wanted to get a feel for whether people are picking up similar issues and I may well be the only one. So for the benefit of those who are unlikely to care about my concerns, please feel free to add half a star to the rating. But for me, I feel that 3 stars is the right score.
Price at the time of review: $0.99 US
Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Diesel, Apple (I-Tunes), Barnes and Noble
Author site: http://www.larrykahn.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12154391-king-of-paine