Olives are the Cure for Everything Except Stupidity
What’s going on people out there? It’s Slick Dungeon here again and although I keep hoping for it, I rarely run into a book down here that is worth reading. I wish I could say The Last Chance Olive Ranch was a fun read, with a smart mystery, fascinating characters who are well developed and as a bonus has some great recipes in the back. All I can really say is that there are in fact recipes in the back. I haven’t tried making them because I am stuck below ground in my dungeon so I suppose they could be great, I don’t know.
Now I have most definitely read worse books than this one. But, there are a ton of issues with this book. Like, how in the hell the whole thing happens in the first place. This basically has two stories going on. China Bayles and her husband Mike McQuaid both have life threatening adventures while in different locations. McQuaid is an ex-cop, current private investigator who has an escaped convict coming after him. China Bayles is an ex-lawyer, current business owner of several Thyme spice pun related businesses and she is supposed to be conducting some sort of seminar at an olive ranch with her friend and business associate Ruby. While at this ranch, China figures out there is a bad guy wanting to do some lethal harm to some people and also kind of helps to clear up a legal matter. I’m going to give a little more of a summary and then point out some things that just completely ruin this whole book.
The story basically starts with McQuaid getting a phone call telling him that this dude named Max has escaped death row. They refer to him in the book as “Bad Max” and I wish I was making that up. Max has not only got out but it seems like he is bent on going out and killing everyone who sent him to prison. McQuaid realizes he needs to catch the guy because he is the one who put him away in the first place and the guy is likely to come after him and China. He reasonably wants China to go do her thing out of town so he won’t have to worry while the guy is out on a tear.
China, meanwhile is torn between staying with her husband and wanting to go with her friend to do this seminar thing. She ends up going and learns all about this land dispute between Maddie, the operator of the Last Chance Olive Ranch and this guy named Boyd. China also happens to bump into an old flame named Chet who is a good guy but things didn’t work out and now he’s got it bad for Maddie.
I think the major plot points here are obvious. McQuaid is eventually going to get his guy. China is going to help figure out the land dispute and prove that Boyd is a grade A jerk, while also making sure that Chet and Maddie get a fairy tale ending.
I don’t so much have an issue with idea of the plot as a whole. But here’s the thing, it should never happen in the first place because every criminal in this book would have to be equal parts super genius and complete moron. There are some other problems with the book as well so I am just going to start a rant list below.
- “Bad Max” is a terrible name for a bad guy. It will only make you think of a particular movie series and it makes you want to laugh and forget the whole book every time you read it.
- Max breaks out of a death row prison in Texas. Think about that for a second. This guy would have to not only be Houdini, he’d have to be bulletproof and Hannibal Lecter smart to break out of here. So how did he do it? No idea, they never mention it in the book. Awesome.
- This book is about an olive ranch but all of China’s businesses are named things like Party Thyme. So why is she the one writing excerpts about olives and olive oil between chapters? Shouldn’t she be the one writing about Thyme? And if anyone is going to write about olives shouldn’t it be Maddie, the one running an olive ranch?!
- This has two completely different narratives going on, one with China, one with McQuaid. One is an ex-cop ensnaring an old enemy plot and the other is a love triangle attempted murder plot. Freaking pick one book please! You wrote two half books that don’t add up. They don’t even converge except for the first and last chapters and this only because China and McQuaid are married.
- Despite this book being full of hardened criminals, tough guy private investigators and active police officers, no one, and I mean no one, swears even a little. China finds out that McQuaid has a plan to place himself as bait for a guy who has already killed three people. She thinks it’s “horsepucky.” At that point China is mentally flipping out and seriously, that’s the word she thinks of? I can think of another and it begins with Bull and doesn’t end with pucky.
- The first owner of the Last Chance Olive Ranch was a woman named Eliza and she is inspired to make this ranch because of her Spanish lover. I lost count of how many times I had to hear about Eliza’s Spanish lover. Not a boyfriend or husband or person who she had an affair with. Nope, this is a Spanish lover.
- Also he died in an orchard accident. That sounded mildly interesting to me. What happened? Not a clue because they never say. “I thought you died in a baking accident” Baker from Into the Woods
- This book actually contains 30-50 feral hogs and that is before that was a thing on twitter. Nothing against this, it was just odd.
- McQuaid has this ex-wife Sally and she apparently has a split personality. So not only does McQuaid have someone who can break out of prison coming after him, this wife is in trouble and she is begging for help. It never once occurs to McQuaid that maybe Max, the insane prison escapee might be the one after her. Max isn’t but shouldn’t McQuaid think that was a reasonable possibility? But nope. And when Max does grab her, thinking it’s China, McQuaid freaking blames her.
- McQuaid’s genius plan to catch this guy seems to involve letting reporters he knows state to the media that he still lives in the town he lives in and is going to a community cook off. The bad guy actually calls McQuaid and tells him he is coming for him but McQuaid never thinks to, you know, wait at home and be prepared when the guy shows up.
- Also, Bad Max is supposed to have figured out a way to get out of prison and kill five different people (with some help) before getting to McQuaid’s house. Now, when Max gets there he finds Sally. Does he do what makes sense? You know, shoot the wife of the guy you hate and then wait until the guy you hate shows up and then shoot him? Nope! He instead kidnaps Sally, and calls McQuaid to lure him to a junkyard. Err… what? That makes literally no sense.
- At one point McQuaid goes and sees his son who is in college. He sees his son kiss an African-American woman. McQuaid kind of flips out in his own mind. I get owning up to your own prejudices and all but what he immediately tries to remember is if in all of his conversations about sex with his son, if he had ever brought up the issue of interracial sex. McQuaid my dude, let’s chat to the side for a minute. You know what you need to know about interracial sex? The same things you need to know about any kind of sex. Same info, it doesn’t freaking change! This particular thing in the book made me wish I was out at sea so that I could chuck the book into the water. Of course then I was glad I wasn’t because I would have realized putting trash in the ocean is not good. What’s worse was that McQuaid then thinks of himself as “fairly liberal”. Mmmhmmm.
- Also, McQuaid seems to completely blame his ex-wife for having mental issues. He refers to her as “skitzy” in his mind. Let me just say this because I wish people would realize it, having multiple personalities is not the same as schizophrenia like at all. Books try to make this the same all the time but you know what it is when they do that? Horsepucky!
- Speaking of my earlier point about language, McQuaid gets information out of a woman who is in with Max’s cousin Lester. It’s clear Lester is a horrible person and that Max has taken Sally by this point. The woman, named Candy, doesn’t think it’s all that weird that Sally has duct tape over her mouth. And she says that Sally is “a pain in the old patootie.” Okay, please, either make this character less dumb or at least let her use an actual word that a woman in that situation would use. The one I am thinking of is what usually follows Jack-
- On China’s side of things, it’s so obvious Boyd is setting Maddie up that only a complete dummy wouldn’t figure that out. Maddie runs a successful business and is a college graduate but can’t seem to figure out Boyd’s motives. Why not? Because she is self conscious about a scar.
- Also it’s completely obvious from the beginning of that story that Boyd is going to be revealed to be related to Maddie. See he tries to get her to marry him but Sofia, the half sister of Eliza, the woman with the Spanish lover, has a secret document in an olive wood box. China can’t possibly imagine what would be in there until she sees it even though we all know it’s going to be a birth certificate saying that Boyd is Maddie’s (well I was guessing half brother) cousin. Thus they can’t get married.
- Hey, you know how they could have prevented Boyd from starting a fire and trying to forcibly take over the ranch? Give the birth certificate to Maddie, or her lawyer! Then I would have fifty percent less of this book I had to read!
- There were so many things olives can do. I had no idea. I am sure this is true but they talk about how good it is to put in soap. Okay sure. Obviously good for food. No argument there. Then they talk about how it can be used as a cleaner possibly rivaling bleach. And that if it goes bad enough it is a fire accelerant. Wait, you want me to put this on my face and in my mouth? Mmmmm. I think I will pass….
- So much of this book was simply an info dump and it got so obnoxious. We didn’t find out from general conversations or actions what a character was like. Nope, there are like five paragraph backgrounds we have to read through when we met or heard about a new character. That’s how I know Eliza had a Spanish lover.
- I suppose the recipes might be good, I don’t know. But I appreciate that they are there because that was less for me to read!
I hope you enjoyed my rant as much as you might enjoy a fine virgin olive oil. Probably you didn’t but that’s okay because apparently that stuff can light things on fire. Next week I will be back to review Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson. Is that when a full moon is full of Mulberries?