A review of Breaking Point, by Jenny Roberts

READ DECEMBER 2013

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: In the eagerly awaited follow-up to “Needlepoint,” When Cameron McGill stumbles across a vicious knife attack, the victim begs her to pass on an email address, then slips into a coma. Cam starts to investigate, and meets animal rights militants, local thugs, a mysterious dyke called Beano, the troubled Angel who only wants to get her into bed… and the very unhelpful chief executive of an animal research establishment. Determined to get to the truth, Cam finds to her horror that she has now become the prey.

MY REVIEW: Good, they say, is the enemy of great. I have to confess I’m not necessarily an advocate for that adage. More often than not, a good book is just a good book, and talking about how it could  have been great seems a little pretentious. Anyway, what’s wrong with “good,” if it means passing a few pleasant hours with an intriguing story and/or characters you like? Who are the powers that be that decide that a book is “great,” anyway? Genre fiction, as a rule, is read for pleasure, not because it’s the “Great American (or British or French or whatever) Novel.”

So, Jenny Roberts’ Breaking Point is good. I’m not sure I’d ever heard of Roberts before the book, as well as her Needle Point showed up as Amazon recs. I have to admit, they both sounded interesting, and, at the time, the price made them attractive. Don’t have a clue why I picked Breaking Point, the sequel, instead of the opening novel of the series, but, it worked just fine as a stand-alone.

The suspenseful opening grabbed me immediately, but it took me a while to warm to Cameron, the protagonist. However, her dogged pursuit of what’s right, her feminist stance, her strengths and vulnerabilities — especially her strained relationship with her mother — eventually won me over. And, ooh, a woman on a bike! My “fave” character ever? Well, no, but I certainly liked her well enough that I wouldn’t mind reading the other novels about her. (The “faves“, if you care: Micky Knight and Aud Torvingen, I guess, and, not just in this genre. Yeah, pretty much moved on from V.I. and Kinsey.)

I like the way the fact that Cameron is gay is treated simply as another facet of her character. There’s none of the “See-how-open-minded-I-am; look-at-my-lesbian-main-character” feel that some novels have. Of course, many that fall into that category are probably written to titillate, or to épater la bourgoisie. I’ll also wager many such novels are written by men. Yes, her orientation is important, especially as his leads to some mistreatment, even abuse, but otherwise, it’s just who she is.

The writing is kind of hard to get a grip on. Despite the presence of cloning technology, it somehow feels older than it is, although that‘s not a real problem. And, the writing itself? It isn’t bad, just sorta “meh.” The novel is suspenseful, and the pacing is good, and, there are no grammatical errors to speak of, but, nothing about the narrative style really stands out. To use another of my pat sayings, “Of all the books I’ve ever read, this was one of them.”

The main problem I have with Breaking Point, as with many such novels, is with the villains. An analogy I’ve used before, and will, in all likelihood use again (and again): The bad guys are so clichéd, they should be twirling their handle-bar moustaches or saying, “Ve haf vays of making you talk.” Bwah-hah-hah! Cue the creepy music. The scene where Cameron is kidnapped and threatened with rape, and possibly murder, lacks the power it should have. The horror of rape is unimaginable to me, but, here, the attackers are such caricatures and their dialogue so trite that they loose any real sense of menace. It’s unfortunate, because this could, in fact, should have been the novel’s strongest scene. Other malefactors — the manager of the research facility and the Neo-Nazi leader are equally poorly-drawn. For what it’s worth, the near-rape scene confirmed my earlier suspicions as to who the real villain was, and that also weakened the threatening nature of the attack, though Cameron’s sense of peril is very real, and well portrayed.

I admire novels that are complex, but in Breaking Point, there’s just way too many threads for a book its size: The initial murder, human cloning, Cameron’s former lover, her commitment issues, her relationship with her mother, the murdered women who are dumped in the sea, animal rights, violence against women, the Aryan conspiracy. There’s so much going on, the novel loses its focus; you aren’t even sure where the author wants the focus to lie.

All that said, though, I still came away with an overall positive impression of Breaking Point. It was an entertaining enough way to pass a few hours, with some serious issues to think about, too. Despite some faults, I will, as I said, probably read more of Roberts’ works somewhere down the line.

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