Created by C.J. Songer
Although the end was a little rushed and maybe a trifle too cute, I really enjoyed reading C.J. Songer’s debut novel Bait (1998), particularly the stream-of-paranoia tone of the ragged-but-right narrator, MEG GILLIS.
She’s an ex-policewoman who’s had plenty of bumps and bruises along the way (her husband, Charlie, also a cop, was murdered a few years ago), and now finds herself working for a small security firm in Los Angeles with another ex-cop. There’s a great balance between toughness and sensitivity here, a believably hard-boiled femaleness that is too rarely captured in print, as she tries to figure out what the hell happened to her missing partner Mike Johnson, and to discover the identity of whoever it is who’s trying to set her up for a possible murder rap.
The action in Bait was almost all internal, this brittle ex-cop playing some sort of psychological mind games with the cop investigating her partner’s disappearance, but there’s something about the tone that was absolutely captivating. Okay, maybe Songer ratcheted up the suspense one or two times too many, but ultimately I felt this is simply a modern classic, and what I thought would be a major series. I thought Meg was a flawed but important new voice in detective fiction, hard-boiled and aware, and definitely a little sexy, and a far cry from the standard-issue female eye that had permeated the genre at the time. Meg didn’t pretend to be a man, but she didn’t turn all girly and simpering, either. I mean, as a cop, she had worked vice, often undercover, so she was no pushover, and that kickass blend of bravado and vulnerability was refreshing–just a tough woman trying to stand her ground, and knowing, ultimately, that toughness alone might not be enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author CJ Songer, who has apparently never been photographed without a gun, was a civilian employee of the Glendale, California police department, and an expert marksman. She has shot at competitive tactical matches, trained with Navy SEALS and taken courses at such prestigious places as Arizona’s Gunsite, Thunder Ranch in Texas and Frontsight in California. Last I heard, she was living in southern California with her family and the government issue Colt 1911 she poses with on the front cover (yep, that’s C.J.!) of the first edition of Bait.
A sequel, Hook, soon followed, and a third book in the series, inevitably titled Line, was announced for publication in 2002, but sadly, never materialized.
- “A stunning debut novel…Atmospheric, gritty, and biting with a heroine who kicks butt and takes names. The writing is so sharp that reading it is like standing barefoot on a straight razor–either way you slide, you’re gonna get cut.”
— Paul Bishop