Title & buy link: What About Him
Author: EE Montgomery
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M contemporary
Length: Novella (131 pages)
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie S
Review summary: An odd book in which a lot of things happen and yet none of it is very memorable.
There’s a snake in Aidan’s bed, but it’s not the kind he wants. A nest of snakes under his house heralds the kind of disruption that Aidan has been trying to avoid all his life and turns him into a hysterical mess. First he sleeps with his best friend, Baxter. Until their one-night-stand, Aidan was happy with their life and friendship. Now he’s lonely and craves a relationship Baxter doesn’t want.
Then Aidan meets Detective Sam Walters while consulting on a murder investigation and his dreams are suddenly invaded by a man who makes Aidan want to strip faster than an attack by green ants. Too bad Sam is straight.
When snakes take over Aidan’s home and a gorgeous snake catcher comes to his rescue, Aidan’s confusion is complete. To add to the mess Aidan’s life has become, a man ends up dead on his living room floor, Baxter confesses to his murder, and calm, cheerful Sam yells at Aidan. It’s enough to make a quiet professor of sociology prefer the snakes.
Dr Aidan Markham is a professor of sociology who’s occasionally called in as a consultant to help the Queensland police with their enquiries. Aidan is delighted when big, handsome detective Sam Walters asks for his assistance on untangling a recent spate of robberies in the area. A number of houses that have had problems with snakes in the yard or inside the residence itself have been burgled, and though the police have been investigating for a while, they haven’t turned up anything concrete.
Aidan has a crush on Sam, but thinks the detective is straight. Since his short-lived fling with his best friend Baxter, Aidan has been looking for his dream man – but hasn’t had any luck finding him. Baxter, meanwhile, has been hooking up a lot with one particular guy but doesn’t consider himself the type to settle down.
Before Aidan can look into the case, he arrives home to find a snake on his porch. He freaks out and calls a snake-catcher. Doug rides a motorbike, he’s hot, and he can get rid of snakes, which is a good thing as there’s a whole nest of them under Aidan’s house. But Sam is suspicious… and so is Baxter, but for a very different reason. Does Doug have anything to do with the robberies – and more importantly, which guy should Aidan choose?
I picked this book up because I was fancied reading something light and the blurb suggested wacky hi-jinks. I struggled through the book over a couple of days and had to keep re-reading some scenes just to remind myself of who the characters were – never a good sign.
First of all, the blurb is a bit misleading. Two of the events described in the blurb have already happened off-page by the time we join the story, so even though this isn’t a sequel, I got the impression that it was.
Unfortunately I didn’t like any of the characters. Aidan is TSTL—I’m not sure how he managed to get tenure when he’s so patently clueless about almost everything, and though his obsession with finding the ideal guy was a little funny at first because he’s so daft, it soon went into ‘tragic loser’ territory when Aidan looked at every guy as possible relationship material.
I don’t understand why he’s so desperate to have a relationship. We’re not given any details about his past or why he’s so clingy and needy, so he comes across as a weak personality. Then there’s his snake phobia. I mean, okay, I wouldn’t want snakes living in my house and I’d freak out if I saw one lurking around, and yes, phobias are irrational fears that don’t have to be grounded in any past experience, but Aidan’s reactions just seemed off to me. His responses just got more and more extreme and hysterical, and to be honest I couldn’t tell if this was being done for comic effect or not. All it managed to do was to present Aidan as a shrieking helpless idiot 🙁
No one really comes out of this story looking particularly competent, except maybe Doug the snake-catcher, although he falls prey (as does everyone else) to a Big Misunderstanding. Now I don’t mind a comedy of errors, but the humour seemed laboured here and (to me anyway) wasn’t very funny. Other readers may disagree! Maybe I’d have found it more amusing if I’d cared about the characters.
Then there were the weird info-dumps. Perhaps these were supposed to suggest character development, but they were just mentioned once or twice and then abandoned. For example, at the start of the book Sam starts a conversation about the land given to ex-soldiers by the government in 1920. Sam goes on to say that his grandfather was one of those ex-soldiers. It’s interesting, but in the context of the story it’s completely irrelevant. Sam is there to ask for Aidan’s help, yet instead of doing so and moving us straight into the mystery plot, there’s all this small talk that doesn’t really show us anything about the characters and just bogs down the narrative.
The only info-dumps that were useful to the story were about snakes and snake-catching. Doug was the only character who seemed interesting, so what happened to him was a surprise. The wrap-up of the mystery plot (which was so obvious that the police look like idiots for not working it out ages ago) basically took place off-page, allowing all the ends to be tied up neatly without any effort, and the ‘whodunnit’ aspect was completely robbed of any power it might have had because [spoiler] the criminal wasn’t actually a character who’d been previously introduced – which also had the effect of completely undermining what happened to Doug.[/spoiler]
Probably the biggest problem I had with this book was that it was ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’. There were some interesting ideas in there, and done differently it could have been funnier in a more accessible manner, but for me this just didn’t work on any level and the characters irritated me rather than amused me.
I did like the snakes, though.