442 pages
ISBN 0-7704-2958-0
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Nicknamed “Puppet” in childhood, 28-year-old Amanda Travis is a
twice-divorced criminal attorney in Palm Beach. She spends her workdays
“defending creeps” and her leisure time hooking up with married men.
When ex-husband number one calls to say that her estranged mother has
shot and killed a man in the lobby of Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel, a
reluctant Amanda returns to her hometown to help the defence team
(conveniently headed by ex-hubby Ben) discover a motive for the
shooting. As the case develops and Amanda’s mother proves herself a
singularly uncooperative client, Amanda is forced to confront her own
troubled past.

I don’t recall Joy Fielding ever inflicting on her readers such a
thoroughly unlikeable heroine. At one point Amanda asks herself, “Are
you more upset because your mother murdered a man in cold blood, or
because your ex-husband didn’t ask you out to dinner?” The
answer’s a no-brainer. Ostensibly in Toronto to work on her mother’s
case, our heroine devotes most of her energy to whining about the frigid
weather, thinking nasty thoughts about the many people who irritate her,
and contriving ways to sleep with her ex-husband. She initiates a series
of increasingly desperate intrusions on Ben’s life, untroubled or
perhaps emboldened by the fact the he’s seeing someone else. Fielding
may have intended to cast Amanda in the mould of a feisty romance-novel
heroine, but what she ended up creating is a character who exhibits all
the signs of a classic stalker.

An unintentionally psychopathic heroine is by no means the only
problem. Puppet cries out for radical editorial pruning. Gratuitous
descriptions and dead-end scenes abound, and I lost track of the number
of times Amanda makes the same lame joke about her mother shooting
strange men in hotel lobbies. Especially grating are the endless
descriptions of Toronto that read like they were lifted from a travel
guide: “The Reference Library is a stunning glass and redbrick
structure located at 789 Yonge Street, a block north of Bloor. Designed
by award-winning architect …” As Puppet lumbers to its laughably
over-the-top ending, there are campy Jacqueline Susann touches like the
one-night stand of Amanda’s who bears the porn-movie-inspired name of
Jerrod Sugar. Sadly, the novel as a whole fails to meet the standard of
“so bad it’s good.”


Fielding, Joy., “Puppet,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16845.