Shades of Grey by Clea Simon

Dulcie Schwartz is grieving the death of her much-loved cat, she’s stuck with the roommate from hell and she has no idea for her thesis.  After a day spent fuming about her roommate’s most recent bad behavior,  she comes home to find him with a knife in his back.  A series of bizarre incidents follows, making her wonder if Tim’s murder is somehow connected to the malicious computer programs causing problems at both work and school—the guy helped himself to everything in the apartment, why not her laptop?

I wanted to like this book.  The main character is an English major (like),  spends a lot of time in a library (like) and adored her cat (like).  The cat apparently adored her as well and is now hanging about as a ghost cat, trying to look out for her (like).  Mostly though, I found myself frustrated.  Dulcie takes naivete to a whole new level—I’m a trusting person but when you’re involved in three separate investigations (one murder, two computer-related), well, I think that calls for scrutinizing casual acquaintances a little more carefully.  It doesn’t call for hanging out with people who snubbed you previously and sharing information with them.  It doesn’t call for trusting the brother of the murdered roommate—the brother who states that he wants to protect his family from anything that might embarrass them.  It doesn’t call for letting someone use your workstation to access the server when you know you’re being investigated.  Seriously!!!  Dulcie is a 26 year-old grad student at Harvard and all of the characters keep referring to how smart she is but I think she’s a complete idiot.  To top it off, she’s at least as concerned about whether guys like her as she is about the fact that she’s a suspect in Tim’s murder (she moves from one crush to another without missing a beat).  True, she knows she didn’t do it but I think I would be a little too freaked out about the fact that I was a murder suspect to be wondering if a guy *liked* me.   Plus, I would be thinking, “Gee, his best friend/brother was just murdered in my apartment and everyone knows I hated Tim—why is he asking me out to dinner?  Offering to look at my computer?”.  ACK!

Aside of the fact that the main character is an idiot, there are other problems with the story.  I’m all for guys falling for the previously overlooked girl but when she suddenly finds herself with more than a few options, it strains the believability of the story.  She hasn’t suddenly developed more confidence or done anything noteworthy—so why are these men suddenly looking her way?  Did Maxim run an article on English grad students?  Is it sexy to mention you have a ghost cat?  Beyond that, I *hated* the scene where she finally figures everything out—by indulging in a little thinking out loud with the murderer.  And what the heck was the deal with Nemo?

All that said, it is an intriguing idea for a series and I’m tempted to give the next book, Grey Matters, a try to see if Dulcie’s a bit more credible—or I’m a bit more tolerant.

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