Bree T's Reviews > Fetish

Fetish by Tara Moss
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Dec 23, 10

bookshelves: crime, library-reads, series, thriller

Makedde Vanderwall is beautiful. The Canadian born model has relied on her tall, blonde curvaceous looks for over ten year now. She’s approaching the end of her modelling career, being a grand old 25yrs of age so she’s making the most of it while she can. A proud Australian size 10 with no starving herself going on here, she flies into Sydney to visit with her friend Cassandra, a fellow Canadian model working down under for a little while. Cassandra is a childhood friend, someone Mak knew when she was just a little girl and took under her wing, especially when Cassandra started modelling. She’s like family and Mak is very much looking forward to seeing her and escaping to Australia for some much needed down time after a slight stalker incident in Canada. Mak is surprised when Cassandra doesn’t meet her at the airport but Mak has been to Sydney before so she takes a taxi to Cassandra’s place, arranges a spare key to be delivered to her from the modelling agency and makes herself at home in the spartan apartment. She knows that Cassandra has a lover who she is very secretive about – someone Mak assumes is probably much older than the 19yo Cassandra and most likely, very married. So Mak isn’t that worried at first when Cassandra doesn’t return to the apartment that night, or return any messages. She goes out to her first Australian assignment, a swimwear shoot on a beach. Mak is taking a break to answer a call of nature when she makes a shocking and horrific discovery – the beaten, bloody, mutilated body of a woman. And the woman is Cassandra.

Women in Sydney are being stalked by a killer. Nicknamed the Stiletto Murders, for the murderer’s habit of picking women wearing stilettos and taking one, leaving the victim wearing only one shoe, he has struck several times before Cassandra already. Mak meets Detective Andy Flynn, the homicide cop in charge of the case and although attracted to him, is less than impressed by the way he dismisses some information that she gives him, about Cassandra’s lover. The two clash about the case more than once, especially Mak’s desire to assist the investigation and insert herself into it. Mak, back in Canada, is using her modelling money to pay her way through a forensic psychology degree and although not qualified yet, she certainly seems to think that she deserves to be involved. Her father was also a cop and this further enforces her belief that she understands what is going on and should be kept in the loop on everything. Detective Flynn doesn’t agree – and although the sparks are flying between them, so are the misunderstandings.

Then Detective Flynn is implicated when his ex-wife, with whom he is going through a very acrimonious divorce, becomes a victim. Was she targeted because of her relationship with Flynn? Or did Flynn murder her himself, making it look like a Stiletto Murders case? Detective Flynn disappears, leaving behind a lot of suspicion and a lot of unanswered questions for Mak. But she’s got other issues. The killer is fixed on her now and she’s going to be his most perfect victim yet.

This is Tara Moss’ first full-length novel. She holds duel Canadian-Australian citizenships, spends a lot of time in both countries and is a tall, statuesque blonde model? Sound familiar? They say write what you know and Moss has clearly adopted quite a bit of that philosophy, fashioning in a modelling world into a gruesome crime novel. She’s apparently very dedicated in her research, holds a PI license and has explored many avenues quite thoroughly and it shows in her writing. The novel was possessed of a good plot, well paced and expertly drawn out and I enjoyed the read thoroughly. There were only a few quibbles, one of which (some niggling grammatical issues and flat dialogue at times) I think will disappear as Moss grows more confident in writing and in the series – I’ve already heard from various sources that her writing strengthens with each novel.

The other quibble – Mak is tough and likable and not a sort of dithering model stereotype, but she was frustrating in her expectation to be included in everything. She suffered from ‘All about me’ syndrome, aka ‘I can do it, don’t underestimate me’ disease – quite common in crime novels with female protagonists. Often they’re cops that go into dangerous situations without back up, or women who work in other areas such as forensic pathology (Scarpetta, Brennan, etc) who get involved in unlikely avenues of crime solving. And then go into dangerous situations without back up. Mak was a random off the street, halfway through a forensic psychology degree who seemed to think that she was well experienced enough to be told everything about the case just because she knew a victim and got mighty uppity whenever Flynn refused to tell her anything. Which, because she was beautiful and he was attracted to her, wasn’t that often. But if he dared not jump when she gave him something she thought was relevant, or if he dared not immediately spill his guts on the ins and outs of the case when she asked, she really went into a bit of a strop that was really quite childish. And you’d think that as the daughter of a cop, she would know that discussing the details like that is not acceptable. I also found it totally far-fetched that Mak would discover the body of her friend in a city of four million or so people, less than 24 hours after arriving into the country.

But apart from that, Fetish was a promising debut crime novel from Moss. Her expert research and ability to craft a story made for an interesting and engrossing read. She gave you just enough detail to be satisfactorily creeped out by the killer but not too much so that you were wading in gore and psychopathic mind wanderings. I liked Flynn and I hope that he turns up in future books. The setting also contributed to some of my enjoyment of this book – I love Sydney. It’s my favourite city.
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