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Book review: <i>A Thin Dark Line</i> by Tami Hoag

A Thin Dark Line is the quintessential textbook thriller. It had all the correct elements in all the correct places, and while it wasn’t a dazzling literary work, it kept me relatively interested and it wasn’t an effort to finish the thing in two days, which in my opinion is as a thriller should be. It was light, fluffy, and only slightly annoying, and it had a relatively unexpected twist and completely predictable sex scenes. All in all, an excellent example of an airport novel.

The story

Deputy Annie Broussard (the only lady deputy in Bayou Breaux, Louisiana) and her colleagues are on edge about the release of a murder suspect due to insufficient evidence... and they aren’t the only ones. However, when the lead detective on the case beats up the main suspect, Deputy Broussard just happens to be walking past and arrests the lead detective. This effectively segregates her from all her colleagues, and a good percentage of the town who think the suspect got what was coming to him. Meanwhile, there’s a new rapist in town, a murder to solve, and a pile of death threats towards Annie—who is having to investigate in secret. Top it off with a little unrequited love, some steamy sex, and a plot twist at Mardi Gras at the end and there you have it.

The style

A Thin Dark Line is set in Louisiana, and Tami Hoag has put in some Cajun French phrases for authenticity, which is all very nice. Furthermore, there are lots of good cameo descriptions and scenery descriptions, so the whole Louisiana experience comes across well (I’ve never been there, but the feeling of the place was conveyed). The experience of the climate, and the swamp, and the characters emotions were all well laid out, and the writing style is sufficient and not overblown (except possibly for the sex scenes, which are notoriously difficult and in this case read like they were lifted from one of the saucier Mills and Boon novels). The descriptions of the murders and assaults (also notoriously difficult) were very good—Tami Hoag has resisted the temptation to over-kill (pardon the pun) and manages to tastefully convey what has happened instead of goring it up for shock value.

I did find Annie Broussard’s relationship with the other police officers immensely difficult to deal with, however. Annie was the one female in a station house full of crackers, and obviously Tami Hoag was trying to portray the difficulties someone in this position would have had to deal with and the endemic sexism. And, while I don’t have any difficulty believing in the sort of sexism she encountered, I found the whole situation frustrating and distracting from the storyline. The men were too stereotypical—I know they exist, but couldn’t there be more than one exception to the sexist boys? More than one person on her side? And did Annie always have to make those “I’m one of the boys” dirty wisecracks every time someone said something to her? Does she never run out of one liners? Does she think they help? I didn’t feel that it contributed overly to the storyline. If Tami Hoag wants to write about gender inequality (and I think she does, because she also explained some popular rape theories) then maybe she should do it in a different setting. Because, in the end, I was just frustrated by the whole thing and dwelling on gender theory when I SHOULD have been enjoying a harmless thriller. Furthermore, there were other gender relationships in the novel which passed without comment but could have been made something of. So it seemed fraught with difficulty—over dealing on the one hand, under dealing on the other... of course, feel free to discount this analysis. Having studied feminist theory, I’ve become overly sensitive to such things. If you aren’t bothered by a bit of harmless preaching and aren’t going to think about it too much, it probably won’t bother you at all.

Who is this book for?

I recommend reading it for brain-off relaxation or filling time... on a bus, on a plane, before bed, in your lunch hour... nothing you want to think about, but a book you actually wouldn’t mind finishing... if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a pulpy thriller, people, no more, no less. And if you like the genre, you’ll like this one.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Try No Trace, another crime fiction thriller. Or some other British thrillers (I tend to prefer them to American ones). You could also try another of Tami Hoag’s novels—I hear she has several.

In short

Title: A Thin Dark Line
Author: Tami Hoag
Publisher: Bantam Books
ISBN: 0553571885
Year published: 1998
Pages: 592
Genre: Airport novel,Thriller
Review Type: