A Shameless Little Con by Meli Raine
Amazon Digital Services, 2018
Officially, Jane Borokov has been cleared of all charges. There’s no firm evidence that she betrayed her best friend Lindsey into the hands of the gang who brutally raped her, or that Jane was directly responsible for the murders that followed. That doesn’t matter in today’s world of social media, trolls and yellow journalism. The world is convinced that she’s guilty as sin. She receives daily threats of death, and worse. She has been forced to go underground, giving up her home and her career, changing her appearance, and acquiescing to constant surveillance. Lindsey’s father and her mom’s former employer, senator and presidential candidate Harry Bosworth, has provided her with money and protection, in the form of ex-military hunk Silas Gentian. Once upon a time – before she became the ultimate pariah – Jane had thought there might be some chemistry between her and Silas. Now, it’s clear that her bodyguard and minder distrusts and despises her. That’s just one more pain she has to bear.
A Shameless Little Con by Meli Raine offers a darkly suspenseful look into the world of dirty politics and shadow governments. There’s a hint of romance, but the attraction between Jane and Silas is not consummated. Mostly, this book is about being haunted, and hunted, a victim of circumstances turned into a villain by the media and a liability to be eliminated by those truly responsible.
I had very mixed feelings about this novel. On the positive side, Meli Raine excels at evoking Jane’s desperate emotional state and how that is tied to her physical sensations. I could feel Jane’s loneliness, despair and horror. On the other hand, my reactions became increasingly muted because so much of the book, narrated from deep first person POV, focuses on how awful Jane feels. Even the worst trauma becomes less poignant through repetition.
The events leading up to Jane’s plight are hopelessly complicated and confusing. I had to wonder whether the author had really thought about the circumstances when plotting the book, or whether she was making it up as she went along. Two instances of gang rape, several years apart; imprisonment of the victim in a sham psychiatric institution; burner phones, pay offs and blackmail; murder and car bombs; it was just too much for me to grasp (and I am generally considered to be pretty smart).
I’d hoped things would become clearer as the book progressed, but exactly the opposite occurred. The situation becomes progressively more murky, except in the relationship between Jane and Silas, where some trust does develop. Still, I kept reading, liking Jane and wanting her to get some justice. Alas, the book ends with a brazen cliffhanger that will definitely anger some readers (as evidenced by some of the reviews on Amazon).
Meli Raine writes well. She creates vivid characters, knowing how to pick out one or two details that will quickly and clearly delineate their personalities. I particularly enjoyed the sassy octogenarian artist Alice Mogrett, at whose home Jane finds some temporary sanctuary. However, the author doesn’t seem to understand the classic narrative arc. The book is a series of violent and disturbing episodes – just one damn thing after another – with no climax and no resolution. As a reader I felt cheated out of the satisfaction that should come with the end of a book.
I’ll admit that I’m still curious about what really happened, whether Jane will finally be free from the cloud hanging over her, whether she and Silas will ever actually make love. But I’m not curious enough to buy the next book in the series, because I’m all too aware that I might be disappointed.