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The Bubble Gum Thief (2012): My Next Will Be Bigger

Jeff Miller, The Bubble Gum Thief (Thomas and Mercer, 2012)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

 

photo credit: Goodreads

If we had criminal masterminds like this IRL, we’d be in big trouble…

On New Year’s Day, a man walks into a mom-and-pop grocery store in a small town and steals a pack of gum, leaving behind a business card. Two weeks later, halfway across the country, another crime is committed, seemingly unrelated. A business card is left behind there, as well. Two weeks later…

Someone starts noticing that something is going on right around crime four. FBI Special Agent Dagny Gray, brilliant but on the verge of being let go thanks to her anorexia, has been taken out of fieldwork while on an Agency-monitored weight gain program and made to enroll in a course being taught by an old, very eccentric agent the bureau doesn’t quite know what to do with. We know him only as the Professor. He takes a kind of fatherly interest in Dagny, who also finds herself falling for Michael Brodsky, an artist a friend set her up on a blind date with. All the sudden, Dagny has the kind of support network that might be able to get her back to fighting trim. Then the case the press are starting to refer to as the Bubble Gum Thief case crosses their path, and the Professor takes an interest, asking Dagny to be his eyes in the field (and asking her to hand-pick a partner from among her classmates). For a while, it seems life couldn’t be getting any better for Dagny—until the Bubble Gum Thief, whose crimes escalate with each one, strikes too close to home…

It’s not a bad little book, and while you’ve certainly seen the idea before (is there really a thriller these days we can’t say that about?), it’s got some nice embellishments, especially on the character-development level. I wanted the chance to run this one by an anorexic or ex-anorexic before reviewing it—I don’t know nearly enough about the subject to comment on the authenticity of Dagny’s struggles with her weight, and I’m not just going to throw out a “seems legit” and walk away from it—but that wasn’t in the cards, so I can’t really speak to that part of it at all. From the thriller angle, I thought it worked, but I have to ding it slightly for being complex enough (and/or Miller not giving us enough) that it requires the Poirot-copyrighted “I’ve gathered you all in the room to tell you how I figured out the crime!” scene. That’s an annoyance, though, not a major flaw. I liked it. I suspect, if you are a fan of the genre thriller, you will as well. *** ½

 

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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