Story Rating: 3.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: John Solo
Length: 7 hours, 39 minutes
Femme Faux Fatale is a mystery/suspense romance that has twists a rollercoaster designer couldn’t contain. Though a contemporary story, it’s a bit film-noir in the plotting and has unexpected Nazis, so keep that in mind.
Private investigator Cain Noble is hired by “Camille Astor” to find her missing husband, Sheridan, and a priceless Rodin statuette. As it turns out, Camille is a burlesque dancer at Sheridan’s club, and when Cain meets her at the club, he realizes Camille isn’t the person who showed Cain all around the Astor mansion. Camille is deceptively concerned, however, mostly about her missing work of art. Staying late for the main attraction, Cain meets Riley “Lily” Lavender, a cross-dressing torch singer who happens to be Sheridan’s bestie, and the concerned party who did hire Cain.
Intrigued by the shenanigans, and captivated by Riley, Cain continues his investigation, only to discover a grisly, double murder. Falling harder for Riley while the mayhem unfolds, Cain tracks his quarries to find not only Sheridan and the statuette, but also a bevy of Nazis trying to bring their brand of crazy back to the forefront of American society.
I will say that the Nazi angle to this story threw me right and left and up and down, but I suppose I should have anticipated it given the noir feel. I’ll be honest, though, and say the whole climax/second half of the book felt contrived and trying too hard to coax a connection to the Third Reich. I don’t want to destroy the suspense, but the statuette plays a big part in the climax and Riley was the key to much of that plot. However, Riley is a part of the reason I struggled with the story, because he is the epitome of subterfuge and, though worried sick for his dear friend, he cannot possibly reveal the truth to Cain, who has to muddle along and muscle his way into constant danger, saving Riley more than once. I really wanted to like Riley, but the melodrama wore me out.
The narrator, John Solo, made a valiant effort to keep this rambling story on pace. I like Solo’s work, yet I was concerned his often-whimsical narration style would be too light for a mystery. I was so glad to be wrong on that account, as his intonations seemed spot on for the dark twists of this book. Solo does a great job with the different registers of the characters, several of whom are women, and adequately delivers a Louisiana lilt to Riley and a couple other southern characters. There were times I thought I would give up on what seemed to be a never-ending farce of lies, showdowns, and double-crosses, but the narration pulled me along.
As far as the romance, it seemed to develop too quickly and I had struggles with Cain and Riley’s relationship given that Riley lied so much to Cain, and Cain kept getting hurt, but kept returning for more. It seemed incongruous, as Cain is such an up-front, upstanding guy who had no troubles finding a bed partner. That said, I liked the cross dressing aspects and appreciated how complicated out-and-proud Cain felt with an unexpected attraction directed at a seductive femme in realistic female garb. There is just a little bit of steamy sexy times, and a rather happy ending. Once the hot lead stops flying, that is.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.