A new dyke detective for the armchair mystery fan has arrived! Caught in the Net is a first novel from Jessica Thomas and introduces Alex Peres. Alex is a thirty-something dyke who lives (and grew up) in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Arguably, one of the country's most famous resort towns for gays and lesbians, Provincetown is "that strange and beautiful place, where the men are pretty and the women are tough." (p1) With its seasonal population tide of tourists Provincetown plays as much of a role in Caught in the Net as many of the characters and Thomas brings the town's New England quirkiness and its queer color to life for her readers.
A thoughtful, self-sufficient, and independent woman, Alex Peres is a wry observer of nature (human and otherwise) who uses that skill to support herself. On the creative side her perceptive eye is expressed by her photography. She creates artistic impressions of the Cape and Provincetown area that are sold at local galleries. Alex's more analytical observation skills go into her work as a private detective. A job, which she explains, is filled with interesting but sometimes tedious work like following a wayward husband.
Fargo, the detective's 90-pound, black lab is as much a star of Caught in the Net as Alex. The details of Alex and Fargo's relationship will bring smiles, chuckles, tail wags, and warm fuzzy feelings, especially to readers with a canine love. Indeed Fargo's companionship is primary to Alex who has had rather bad luck in the love department.
That bad luck has held until a new woman appears in town. Janet Meacham, a beautiful, intelligent, young woman has moved to P'town to start a new chapter in her life. Alex finds herself quite taken with Janet and the attraction appears to be mutual. Alex thinks that this is a relationship that could build in a more positive direction.
Meanwhile the severed human foot that Alex, or rather Fargo, found on the beach during a daily walk is the foundation (as it were) of a series of crimes in the area. Alex's brother, a local cop is looking for a young man who may have known the owner of the foot.
This first novel from Thomas is filled with witty insights regarding human foibles with Alex personifying several endearing qualities. Of herself, Alex claims, "Frankly, I am not a great admirer of children as a species -- the younger ones smell funny and the older ones look as if they know something you don't-- but even I didn't want two young kids stumbling on this piece of flotsam or jetsam or whatever you called a lost/discarded body part". (p10) Or regarding her personal habits, "I sat behind the wheel and took a pack of cigarettes off the dashboard and lit one of the five I allow myself each day. I allow myself five. The other eight or ten I smoke are not allowed." (p11)
Although an engaging character, Alex does not quite ring true as a typical Gen-Xer, which might annoy some readers. The mystery is a little thin with a plot that is probably predictable for most fans of the genre and a tad irritating in that Alex did not seem to see it coming. However, the lovely writing, quirky characters, charming setting, and wry observations provide a great deal of promise for future Alex Peres mysteries. Many readers will find themselves caught in this net for pleasant evening's reading.