In this second installment of Fool Me Once . . . , a projected trilogy by Mary Burton King, Rebecca Johnson is overjoyed when her abusive husband, Marcus, is presumed dead. For a fresh start, Rebecca decides to sell the family home. When she gains access to Marcus’ storage unit, she discovers not only her late husband’s cross-dressing habit but also his partial ownership of a Florida company that explores the ocean for sunken treasure. Traveling to Florida to investigate, Rebecca finds further surprises in the form of Marcus’ longtime mistress, Dawn, and their young son, Anthony.
That is only the beginning of Rebecca’s troubles. A drug-addled psychopath with a vendetta is coming for her, and her realtor, Shelia, just happens to be his cousin. They – and a host of supporting characters – cross paths, often violently, on the way to receiving their comeuppance.
The novel’s brevity is its biggest drawback. With more room to develop, its tough, unscrupulous characters might be at home in the acclaimed pulp fiction of Jonathan Woods or Jason Starr. Shelia, the desperate, ethically challenged realtor, is a particular standout. But haphazard writing and an unfocused plot leave readers no room to gain a stake in the characters’ fates. Too often, King relies on stock descriptions and gross-out value. (For instance, a victim of sex trafficking lies on a “soiled mattress” with semen in her hair.) The narrative also clumsily oversells the characters’ attributes: Marcus, for instance, is rarely referred to without an epithet like “pervert” or “rat bastard” attached.
With a storyline that switches directions too often for its slim page count, this novel will likely disappoint crime fiction fans, even those attracted to the more over-the-top specimens of the genre.
Also available in hardcover.