Why I am not a Romeo for Juliette Mead (A review of the novel 'The Headhunter' by Juliette Mead)

The Headhunter. Quite a promising name, isn't it? The word implies a certain grade of ardor, ambition, both precision and perception. The book, unfortunately, lacks all of the above. Being a woman herself, Ms. Mead tries to portray women of the City as high flyers more than worthy of pay and respect equal to that of men. Too bad she fails! Her description of female characters is somewhat degrading: in her opinion, apparently, for women the most important professional features are long legs, high breasts and enticing outfits. Of course, I understand that the author wanted her main characters, Teddy and Candida, to be the paragons of both attractiveness and competence, but she has brought too much of the former and definitely lost most of the latter somewhere along the way. After all, the only woman who is not especially attractive – Esther – is left with nothing, if not to say she is simply forgotten by the end of the book. Furthermore, let us take a cursory glance at the other characters. How can a self-respecting fiction author divide her characters into two perfectly defined groups of good, such as Jack, Matilda, Tom Pitt-Rivers, Philip, and bad, like Candida and Alex? It escapes my comprehension that there are no controversial, realistic people going through an inner conflict described in the book. Certainly, the author makes a shot at this by setting Teddy out on a so-called path of self-development, but she fires blank yet again. It seems to me that the only change Teddy undergoes is presumably settling for one man - Jack, staying the same lascivious and light-headed girl. I have also paid attention to author's pretence of economic awareness. Well, perhaps she did look up certain facts and figures, but the whole plot line is rather far-fetched. Many names of politician and executives are mentions, so are their activities, trips and decisions. These people, however, are not turning into fully blown characters on the following pages and are simply referred to for the sake of credibility and, perhaps, historical accuracy. As praiseworthy as it is in a chronicler, this is not the case: storyline gets distorted, a casual reader loses interest, and this information in general is excessive as far as the problems at Hayes Goldsmith trading desk are concerned. What about a love story? There sure is a shared one: that of each character adoring themselves and giving in to any temptation coming their way. Teddy is ready to jump at any opportunity to please a man finding her attractive. Alex would marry a mirror if it were legal. The only reason Jack's composure is so bulletproof is that, in my opinion, he takes great pride in this ability and is ecstatic when containing himself successfully. As for the passionate involvement of Theodora and Jack, I for one do not believe it for a second, so obvious and inculcated it is. As far as the morals are concerned, the situation is even worse: the only thing the book teaches the reader is that seducing one's counterparts is a top-notch business strategy. All in all, too many dirty affairs, too much evil gone unpunished, too many half-baked economic schemes to take the book seriously or at least keep reading without effort. Everything has to stop somewhere, eventually. To stop this particular flow of criticism I would like to build a dam of recognition: it is not easy writing books, and the author definitely put a lot of thought into what she wanted to say to the world. As an admirer of Mr. Churchill, I would like to refer to his saying: “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential”. I would therefore settle for hoping that Ms. Mead's potential is realised in another book of hers.

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Michael Kelso

Author of Crime/Mystery novels, and short hor...

Schellsburg, United States