Review: A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan

5th August 2013

pg1*I received this book from the publisher The Viking Press in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, but not often, you open a book, read the first few pages, and know without a doubt that you will thoroughly enjoy a book. A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan was just that sort of book. As is obvious by the title, this is a literary mystery but not one you might expect.

Jo Donovan owns Hamish and Donovan, a literary agency handed down to her by her former boss, mentor, and friend Molly. Though she occasionally doubts the method in which she was chosen to handle the firm – she was married to the famous author Hugo Donovan – Jo knows she’s good at her job. She runs a tight ship, cultivating her loyal staff  – Lorna, Harriet, Jean-Paul, and Chloe – and using their strengths to benefit the authors she represents. Together, they weed through submissions to determine which deserve a chance and which either aren’t good enough or don’t fit the image of Hamish and Donovan.

Those rejections come under scrutiny when an author dressed in a trench and fedora accosts Jo outside her building, telling her ominously, “Mark the time, Jo. Remember this moment. Both our lives are about to change.” Chalking it up to the peculiarities of some writers, Jo entertains others with the tale of the man she dubs Sam Spade until a cruel act of sabotage follows, making Sam Spade seem much more sinister. Another client, Max Messinger, whose loyalty is only matched by a guard dog given to Jo by another author, is a former FBI agent who helps the agency navigate life after the attack, but he’s also a source of support for Jo who is unused to dealing with police and specifically lead detective Tommy Cullen, a former boyfriend.

As Jo watches her agency and her life come under attack, she also has to examine the life she led with her beloved husband Hugo and who she is without him, and though I loved this book in its entirety, I especially loved watching Jo’s painful transformation. She mentions at some point that we craft our own stories of our lives, and I definitely believe that to be true. For Jo, a difficult childhood means that she really equates much of her marriage with her life story as she knows it, and the realization that a. her story must include the bad bits and b. even her marriage may not have been what she thought is both heartbreaking and lovely.

A Dangerous Fiction is also full of perfect readerly moments such as these:

As I ate, I felt stronger. The dark cloud had receded, if only for the moment. Raymond Carver was right, I thought. It is the small, good things that save us.

I have known only one man as vivid and outsized as a proper fictional protagonist, and reader, I married him.

Yet the novel never bargains away story, character, or mystery for its wit.

Add this book to your Goodreads shelf.

  • Barbara Rogan

    Thanks so much for the wonderful review! Much appreciated.

  • Ooh, this looks good. I love books about books, authors, anything along those lines. Adding to my TBR.

    • Yes, yes, and yes. Such a good one. I think you’d enjoy it.

  • Andi

    Thanks for bringing this one to my attention! Looks good.

    • I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  • Charlie

    That last line in the quote, awesome! I’m with Charleen, books about books, love them. I like the way everything sounds woven together a bit, and Jo sounds a good character.

    • Yes! And there were so many quotable parts in it.

  • Barbara Rogan

    Thank you for that lovely review. Very much appreciated!

    • Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It’s probably one of my favorites from the summer. 🙂

  • I like the sound of this one. Literary mysteries can be so entertaining to read.

    • It is entertaining and just very well done.

  • It’s always so fun when you just KNOW you will like a book! And then even more fun when you are right!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    • Yes and yes! Love that feeling.

  • Ooooh, this sounds good. I just finished Mystery Girl by David Gordon which has some book-ish connections, too. I do love that overlap.

    • Yes! I am waiting to read your review until I’ve written mine up. I have LOTS to say.

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  • This sounds so up my alley! I’ll have to see if the library has it.

    • I hope you like it!

  • This sounds really good! I love that feeling of knowing you’re going to be able to just sink into a book and enjoy it!

    • I know! It doesn’t happen all that often.

  • Melinda Petersen

    Sure sounds good

    • It really is. I immediately passed it to my mom to read when I finished it.

  • Nishita

    This sounds all sorts of wonderful. I haven’t heard of this book or the writer, but oh, this is just my style of book, I know it.