L.A. Meyer,
Jacky Faber #11: Boston Jacky
(Harcourt, 2013)

Boston Jacky is so much fun in places, it's hard to accept that author L.A. Meyer and his eponymous character, Jacky Faber, might be running out of steam.

At its core, Boston Jacky is exactly what the previous 10 volumes in the Bloody Jack series have been -- a fun, adventure-filled romp with an appealing protagonist who never grows up. Our Jacky gets herself into plenty of messes, but she always lands on her feet and scampers away, laughing at her foes as she goes. In her wake, she leaves broken hearts and busted heads, and we can content ourselves with the knowledge that everyone got what they deserved.

In this case, she's back in her second home of Boston, reconnecting with dear friends, loyal business partners and old enemies. She buys a bar, opens a theater, throws her allegiance behind the Irish fire brigade and thumbs her nose at the local women's temperance union. Her maternal skills are questioned -- perhaps with good reason, let's face it, as she's only 17 and has a habit of running off to other countries at the drop of a hat, waltzing into danger on a whim and leaving her young charges with whomever is handy. One of her dearest friends has seemingly had enough of our Jacky, and her long, star-crossed romance is on the brink of dissolution.

Let's talk about that for a moment. Jacky fell in love with Jaimy Fletcher in the first book in this series, and ever since they've been torn asunder and kept apart, and they've fallen victims to more misunderstandings and miscommunications than a season of Three's Company. Through it all, Jacky has been less than faithful, and Jaimy has proven to be overbearing, jealous, angry and, perhaps worst of all, a hypocrite. He is, in this novel, deceitful and cruel and, by tale's end, a bit brutal. Face it, L.A. Meyer -- this complex romance you've plotted has gone sour, and it's time to move on.

Otherwise, this book reunites Jacky -- and readers -- with a great many characters from previous novels. However, there are no great events here to tell -- Jacky isn't thrust into major battles that change the world, there's no political intrigue, there's no big naval adventure or pirate yarn, not even a trip down a mighty river. Jacky just does stuff, and she reacts to events around her, and things happen. But nothing big, nothing noteworthy. Just ... stuff.

And her latest trick to get out of nearly any situation involves psychedelic 'shrooms, and that conceit has already grown old. One of the big climaxes -- if you can call it that -- of this volume devolves into a farce. It's just too freakin' silly.

I'm sad to say, this series is weaker now than it was in the beginning. Our protagonist seems adrift, unsure where she belongs. Our romantic leads are hopelessly broken, and if either forgives the other at this point, we've slipped well beyond the bounds of believable writing. And Jacky, who's packed a lot of living into her short life, needs to grow and, dare I say it, mature. Perhaps she even needs to face some actual consequences for the many choices she's made.

And yet -- I still enjoy reading Jacky's adventures. Someone who picks up a copy of Boston Jacky without reading previous books in the series will probably not be tempted to continue on. But those of us who've been with Jacky from the start -- I suspect most of us will keep coming back for more.

As a final aside, can anyone explain why Jacky, on shore leave during a brief trading voyage, turns up her nose at the bull fights because they are cruel, then goes and wagers on the cock fights instead?

book review by
Tom Knapp

11 January 2014

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