In a nutshell: I’m sure there was a good story in there somewhere, but the inappropriate format made it hard to enjoy.
When you read a diary book, you’re expecting it to be divided into days and times. When you’re reading ‘regular’ fiction, timestamps are just distracting; worse still when they don’t actually have any significance, which I always assume they do. The format makes the action move at a glacial pace.
To be fair, technique-wise, this was better than A Ghost in the Closet – but then, that was supposed to be bad. Yes, this is also supposed to be a parody and it is amusing, but it doesn’t poke fun at itself in as much the same way and wasn’t as fun to read.
In case you’ve not read a diary book, or I shouldn’t be calling it that, let me elaborate: this 248-page book is divided into 8 “chapters” (days), and each chapter is made up of scenes, with a time and location. The fact that it’s in real time is probably what really makes it seem to drag.
Personally, as someone who likes to read a chapter at a time, I found it frustrating. Each “chapter” was far too long to read in one sitting, and it was difficult to decide where to stop.
Feel free to correct me if these comments make it obvious that I haven’t read any of the James Bond books, perhaps it’s part of the parody. If they are the same though, I’m guessing I wouldn’t like them either, even if I can see why timestamps fit with the secret agent theme.
That famous agent 007 is out of commission, stuck in a sanitarium having lost his nerve when he’s supposed to be back in London receiving a medal from the queen, who is very excited about meeting one of her secret agents in the flesh.
Of course, the queen can’t be disappointed. So who better to step in than James’ identical twin sister, Jane? [James makes no appearance in the book.]
We meet Jane in a bad place after a recent break up – more specifically, we meet her in bed with a girl she picked up at the pub last night, who she doesn’t remember (She has a much bigger role than that.) That might sound like it makes for an unusual hero, but her reactions to the things that happen to her and the agents she meet are too fun not to grow to like her.
We meet secret agent/rubber band ball fan/royalty fanatic Cedric Pumpernickel, whose mission with Jane will be his last before retiring; 008, a young agent desperate to replace 007 and terrified that Jane will take his place while he’s stuck making his own rubber band ball; N., their boss and his secretary, Miss Tuppenny.
While they’re busy keeping the queen happy, the S.O.B.s (Sons of Britain, get your head out of the gutter) and their spouses are looking to dethrone her and bring the Duke and Duchess of Windsor back to the throne (the book is set in 1965) and restore England to its former glory.
Other characters include Tuppenny’s coworkers, Jane’s best friend and boss, her landlord, and an elderly neighbour, as well as Jane’s least favourite customer who feels neglected since her friend married into the nobility.
If you’ve read the back of the book, you’ll have seen that it says Jane needs to “keep her brother’s reputation intact… in and out of the bedroom.” This doesn’t mean her hooking up with the Bond girl of the book, this means her own bedroom activities – with women, so I suppose that counts – and her learning to leer at women so she can pass for James.
I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of Maney’s books, unless someone wants to tell me this was an unusual misfire. Ghost was odd, but good, but this was one of the unusual cases in which I was glad to get to the end.
However, if you’re a Bond fan, and don’t mind a leisurely pace (and gay characters), then I’m sure you’d like it. It has enough twists to keep you guessing, and there is some humour. Just not enough for someone who was hoping for something as silly as Ghost.