Strengths: Feisty female action hero, combines action and intrigue with a little bit of fashion and exotic travel.
Weaknesses: Took a little while to get the story going
Why I read it: courtesy of the publisher, I asked for it as I love the James Bond novels.
Pages: 341 (uncorrected proof copy)
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Setting: Europe (including Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK)
Rating: 8 out of 10
If you liked this, try: Ian Fleming or Darling’s earlier Stevie Duveen novel, The Troika Dolls.
Allen and Unwin (publishers with the coolest logo, a cockatoo) recently put out a call for bloggers and bookworms to read an ARC of The Siren’s Sting. This book looked so interesting (I love Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels), as it was touted as a ‘female James Bond’ and it was by an Australian author, so I emailed and was lucky enough to snag a copy (thank you Allen and Unwin!).
In case you haven’t heard of Miranda Darling, she’s also the author of The Troika Dolls, another book about the protagonist of The Siren’s Sting, Stevie Duveen. Although it might be helpful to read The Troika Dolls, The Siren’s Sting can easily be read as a stand alone book (which is what I did). Despite Stevie’s name, she’s a feminine girl who knows her labels as well as her weapons. While this is a high action thriller involving pirates, weapons and secret armies, this book also appeals to label lovers (Stevie has some great Pucci clothes) and those with a wanderlust for living the high life in exotic European locales.
The book opens with Stevie acting as protector (or officially, ‘companion’) to a famous opera singer on a cruise ship. When the ship is attacked by pirates, Stevie is on the case, helping to stop the ship from being taken hostage. Back on dry land, Stevie is then asked by her boss (who she has a crush on) to assess the security risk of an old flame of his, whose husband happens to run a private army with a few ‘extra’ sidelines… The story then moves to Sardinia where Stevie joins the jet set on one of the flashiest superboats in the sea. Posing as a vacant socialite, Stevie finds out that nothing is as it seems, everyone has an agenda – and one of them is trying to kill her…
It’s not all yachts and YSL though. There’s the return of Henning, who Stevie met in the first novel but still knows very little about. She thinks she likes him and there’s a touch of romance. Henning’s mother, Iris, is also a well-written character who influences Stevie’s feelings. Minor characters such as Stevie’s cousin and fiancé (possibly the most annoying girl in the world) provide some light hearted relief.
The settings of this book are also envy-inducing. Stevie resides at either her grandmother’s villa in Sardinia (which is described in such glorious terms I’m putting it on my holiday list) or her flat in Zurich. She also spends time in Turin, Venice and Spain. Darling paints the settings very clearly in the mind, and the interiors tend to reflect that character’s place in this shady world.
For an action novel, there’s very little use of guns and there’s not endless bodies littering the pages. The action is based on innovative technology (such as ceramic guns – Darling, via Stevie, explains why these generally don’t work), double crossing personalities and characters not knowing each other’s agenda. Darling’s style is intelligent action and the novel would appeal to both men and women.
While I’ve been writing this review, I’ve just bought a copy of The Troika Dolls to read. I think Stevie is a character who will be with us for a long time and grow stronger and stronger with each novel. Well done Ms Darling.