August 01, 2013

The cutthroat publishing world gets even scarier

By Barbara Rogan
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A strong, sexy, modern woman is at the helm of Barbara Rogan’s smart new mystery series that kicks off with A Dangerous Fiction. Rogan introduces Jo Donovan, a talented literary agent trying to put her life back together after the death of her larger-than-life husband, esteemed author Hugo Donovan. There’s challenge enough for the grieving widow in running a successful New York literary agency, but Jo faces much more. When a would-be client becomes obsessed with Jo and begins infiltrating her life on a very personal level, she has to figure out the story behind the stalking.

A literary agent turns detective to catch a stalker.

Rogan’s experience as a novelist shows in the way she seamlessly combines a fast-paced mystery with witty literary references, a strong sense of place and an intriguing romance (or two). A New Yorker and a former literary agent herself, Rogan seems equally at ease with casual banter around the slush pile at the agency and the formal show put on at expensive lunches with clients. Readers will feel at ease, too, as though they are part of the literary world’s inner circle.

Adding to the sense of camaraderie is the first-person narration by Jo herself. We’re in her head a lot of the time, and when the stalker’s efforts escalate to include Jo's clients, staff and closest friends, it feels personal. Even though Rogan separates us from the violence a bit by describing the acts after they’ve been committed, the way each blow hits Jo is palpable. She’s shocked by the awful things happening around her but helpless to stop them.

Or is she? As the book progresses, the reader slowly comes to realize that Jo's perspective might be a little skewed. Are there things that her grief has kept her from remembering or understanding? As we come to doubt our narrator, we also have reason to suspect almost every character in the novel, and a great deal of the fun comes from trying to guess who the real culprit is. Is it the handsome detective who appears from Jo’s past? Or maybe the aggressive agent vying for Jo’s position at the agency? It’s not easy to predict, although the clues are there, and Rogan spins out the suspense even after the case seems to be closed.

There’s always another side to the story, and Jo Donovan has to do some deep digging to reveal it. A thoroughly entertaining and engaging mystery, A Dangerous Fiction is not the last we’ll see of Jo Donovan, as Rogan is currently at work on the sequel.

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A Dangerous Fiction

A Dangerous Fiction

By Barbara Rogan
ISBN 9780670026500

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