Crusie, Jennifer, and Bob Mayer: Don’t Look Down

Don’t Look Down is a collaboration between Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, with a chick-lit cover and camouflage-patterned boards underneath. Lucy Armstrong has been brought to Georgia at the last minute to finish directing a movie. J.T. Wilder is a Green Beret who’s been hired as a military advisor to one of the movie’s stars. The original crew has left the movie set in droves, strange re-writes are being handed down from on high, a sniper and a one-eyed alligator lurk (separately) in the swamp, the CIA is poking its nose in, and black helicopters make prominent appearances. As do a dysfunctional but loving family unit, pop culture references, bantering, and sex.

To me, this felt more Crusie (though not chick lit, cover aside) than Mayer—well, insofar as I can judge without having read any of Mayer’s solo works. The opening is certainly very Crusie: I don’t know if anyone else has this problem with her longer works, but the way she opens with multiple characters never fails to confuse me. It usually takes me a couple of chapters and a lot of flipping back and forth to figure out who everyone is and what their relationships are to each other. (I started reading Crusie with her category romances, where there are many fewer characters.) While Mayer wrote the male POV sections and Crusie the female, the tone is reasonably consistent and another reason why it doesn’t feel terribly different from Crusie’s other works.

Oddly, even the increased action/suspense content seems more an extension of, rather than a departure from, Crusie’s other works. Lots of her books have had murderers or crazy people or other dark elements—which I often found jarring and poorly-integrated. If you’re going to do that kind of thing, go all the way; and here the darker parts are fully integrated into plot, character, and theme, and so there was no point at which I found myself saying, “there was really no need for a murder (alligator, shooting, explosion) in this book.” Which is a good thing.

This was a fun backyard read up until the very end, which required a re-read, a nap, and then another re-read to make sense to me. Or perhaps I’m still misreading it, because it seems like (spoiler) is getting off awfully damn easy. Perhaps another nap is called for.

Lucy’s soundtrack is provided by Kirsty MacColl. The visual motifs are Wonder Woman (Kingdom Come is referenced, which I haven’t read) and High Noon (which I have seen).

If you like Crusie and aren’t allergic to action scenes, this is worth checking out.

3 Comments

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  1. If you want to try a Bob Mayer book to get a feel for his style, I suggest the recent “Bodyguard of Lies”, which he wrote under his Robert Doherty psuedonym. Frankly, most of his early bboks aren’t very good, but he improves with each book he writes; I really enjoyed both “Lies” and “Don’t Look Down” and have high hopes for his next books.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll keep it in mind on my next library trip.

  3. Re-read this after the subsequent book, just to confirm that I didn’t like it as well.

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