Short Squeeze Review
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Hamptons real estate attorney Jackie Swaitkowski doesn’t usually handle sticky family matters—so when Sergey Pontecello shows up at her office, asking for help in evicting his sister-in-law from his estate, she doesn’t really take him seriously. So when, later that night, he turns up dead, Jackie starts feeling guilty. If she’d paid more attention to his complaints, maybe he’d still be alive.

When the police uncover some strange evidence, Jackie can’t help but do some investigating of her own. But after she talks to Sergey’s stuffy sister-in-law, his reclusive niece, and his nerdy nephew, she ends up getting run off the road by a huge pickup truck. Someone clearly wants Jackie to stop investigating—which only makes her even more determined to figure out who that someone is.

While Short Squeeze is technically the first book in author Chris Knopf’s new series, it’s actually more of a spinoff—so if you haven’t read Knopf’s Sam Acquillo mysteries (as I haven’t), you might feel like you’re missing something. Sam and Jackie are close friends, and, together, they apparently have quite a storied past—one that Jackie frequently refers to throughout the story. For newcomers, that can be rather off-putting—especially since most readers expect to start a new series fresh, with new stories and new characters.

Perhaps it’s just because she’s appeared in Knopf’s earlier novels—so he’s already developed the character in the past—but Jackie feels surprisingly underdeveloped and inconsistent. In a way, she’s like most of the other independent thirty-something single female characters that pop up in novels—yet there are so many things about her that just don’t work. For the most part, she’s tough and set in her ways. She’s single, and she likes it that way—because she doesn’t have to answer to anyone or feel inferior to anyone. Her stubbornness and her fear of commitment are sometimes pushed so far, in fact, that I sometimes forgot that she was a woman—because she often acts (and sounds) like a man. Still, despite her rough, truck-driving exterior and her fierce independence, she seems to set her living (paying) clients on the back burner as she continues to investigate the death of a guy she met just once—apparently just because she feels guilty. Her motivation feels weak—and it doesn’t seem to fit within her character.

In the same way, she’s generally laid-back and relaxed. Her home is a mess, and she doesn’t really care much about her hair or her clothes. Yet she seems almost obsessed with the side of her face that’s pretty and plastic-surgery perfect (a result of one of her earlier adventures with Sam).

Jackie is full of contradictions and inconsistencies—to the point that it’s often distracting. I couldn’t get a grasp on the character—or even picture her in my mind—and it left me feeling frustrated. But Jackie’s not the only one; many of the other characters are also full of contradictions that never really get resolved. And those fuzzy, inconsistent characters—along with Short Squeeze’s far-fetched mystery—make for a disappointing read.

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