It’s 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals.
Determined to break free of the era’s rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself.
If the police find out, she’ll get fired; if her father finds out, he’ll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he’ll cancel the wedding.
Anna must choose—either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose. (goodreads.com)
I liked the concept and the premise of THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC but the execution left me wanting a whole lot more than what I actually got.
Anna was a conceited, self-centered little twit who was unlikable for about 99% of the book. I wanted to be on board with her trying to break away from a controlling father and live the life she wanted to live but it was really hard to do that when Anna viewed the people around her as nothing more than a means to her end, whatever that end happened to be. She was incredibly fantastic, there was really no reason for anyone to think otherwise, and that’s that. You were wrong if you thought something else. If Anna had a better personality I would have been all over this book. As it were, I was not.
She played with people as if they were toys. She had zero foresight, couldn’t see the bigger picture if she was slapped in the face with it, and even when she did feel something for someone it came off as superficial and fake. She’s portrayed as smart because of all of this secret reading she does. The books she likes are forbidden by her father so she has to hide them behind bindings from acceptable books. But the books she get are stolen from her friend’s library and mutilated because it’s what she wants. And then she goes and does incredibly stupid things because she’s one hell of an obtuse character. Sure, her socialite upbringing could lend itself to how she acts but I’m getting her supposed intelligence shoved down my throat at the same time she’s doing fantastically stupid things while leaving a trail of wounded people in her wake with very little real concern for them.
It all lends to the notion that I think the book is tonally off. It can’t seem to decide just what kind of character Anna is. I think some of it is meant to be funny and some of the situations “hilarious” but since I’m not amused by Anna at all you won’t find me laughing at anything she does. The way she ping-pongs Joe Singer about had me rooting for him to go, ‘I’m done with you, bitch.’ Not to mention she’s wishy-washy when it comes to her fiancé, Edgar, because she really doesn’t want to give up her good life and she may find herself loving him some day. Again, it could have been an amusing story but I hated Anna, therefore I hated everything she did.
I’m really torn about it too because I did like the story. The few times I was able to look beyond Anna and her abhorrent behavior I liked what I was reading. But she kept getting in the way. Bummer. I even found myself getting invested in the very end. WHO WILL SHE END UP WITH? And then she just kept pattering back and forth and back and forth and OMG I DON’T CARE ANYMORE.
And then who’s the killer she’s hunting? Another point toward the story being off. She’s supposedly so smart, reads all these books, connects the dots where other people aren’t. But when it comes to naming the killer, she does it twice before the third time’s the charm. Yeah. At that rate she’s bound to name the person eventually. I KNOW WHO IT IS. No, not him. NOW I KNOW WHO IT IS. No, not him either. WAIT A MINUTE . . . Ugh.
It was Anna. She was the reason I didn’t like THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC. I liked the story. It’s hard for me not to like a story about a woman bucking all social norms in order to do something she loves and bring justice to an unjust world. Seriously hard. But Anna just effing sucks. People were things for her to use, any feelings she did have toward people came off as entirely superficial, filled with crocodile tears, and I just didn’t like her as a person. The story would have been great if it weren’t for Anna.
I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.