Cover lines which refer to bestsellers are a risky strategy, creating expectations which the novel itself may find hard to meet. Marianne Delacourt's Sharp Shooter raised my eyebrows with the cover line 'Introducing Tara Sharp, a new, kick -arse crime fighter for fans of JANET EVANOVICH.' (yes, capitals in the original). It's a bold move to refer to the woman who basically invented the kooky-crime-romance genre, although I presume the marketing department is to blame rather than the author. Unfortunately, while Sharp Shooter is a competent light-crime novel, it suffers in the comparison.
One area where Evanovich is particularly strong is keeping up the pace. In contrast, Delacourt introduces all her characters at a leisurely speed and with little urgency before the story actually begins. It’s not until page 39 and Chapter 7 when fledgling 'paralanguage agent' Sharp is hired by a dodgy lawyer with mafia connections that things start to get interesting. The first six chapters consist of background and introduction and if I hadn't been reading with a view to writing a review, I would have been tempted to put the book aside. In particular, I didn’t find Sharp engaging as a character in these early chapters. There was a great deal of what I thought was rather laboured slapstick (for example, I found the episode where she spills her drink on a potential client painfully unfunny.) Still, sense of humour is a personal thing and other readers may not have the same reaction.
Once the story gets going the book improves markedly and I liked the fact that it is set in Perth, obviously a city that Delacourt knows well. I think she also succeeded in maintaining a genuine Australian tone throughout, avoiding the risk of transplanting an essentially American story. The love interest is plausible and Tara Sharp also becomes more likable as the story progresses. Some of the more annoying minor characters fade out of view (the wise teacher speaking in broken english is one I particularly wanted to strangle).
One other aspect of the book that seemed rather underdone was the supernatural element. Sharp's ability to read auras is certainly an original plot device, but seems to me to be rather useless. As far as the story goes, an experienced reader of body language would end up with exactly the same information, and we hardly need descriptions of their auras to work out who are the bad guys. Instead, the aura reading becomes something of a sideshow, an alternative method of describing a character (eg. “Grassy green aura” instead of “tall with blue eyes”). It also makes the comparison with Janet Evanovich even more puzzling – while her new series does include a supernatural element, her hit Stephanie Plum series does not.
Still, even taking the above into account, I did think it was competent and relatively entertaining, with a number of good points. It’s possible than fans of Janet Evanovich will like this book, if they are looking for something in a similar genre. I do think it could have done with some further thinking and editing, but then I’ve thought that about the last few Janet Evanovich books as well. I think it’s unfortunate that that cover line created such high expectations, because read on its own merits this is a competent and enjoyable Australian contribution to the light-crime-paranormal genre.