Created by S.A. Lelchuk
So now we have NIKKI GRIFFIN, cast by some as the perfect vigilante hero for the #metoo age. Her powerful debut’s a ballsy mashup of agitprop and vengeance porn; a cautionary tale (or thrill read) full of sadistic, abusive men (Boo! Hiss!) and a violent, unbalanced avenger who often makes Lisbeth (slyly name-checked several times) look like a pillar of mental stability (Hip-Hip-Hooray?).
“I wanted to explore what is justified, and where does that become too much?” the author explained in 2019 to Publishers Weekly. “It’s vigilante work, but not with a bloodthirsty morality. She wants a proportional response.”
“I’m not self-destructive,” Nikki, an attractive young woman who owns a Berkeley bookstore, and runs a one-woman private detective agency from the second floor, says in her defense. “I’m not some psycho. There are people in this world who need help.”
The problem? Nikki’s proclamation of sanity is made to her therapist. Her court-ordered therapist. Seems Nikki got a little too hands-on “helping” someone.
I’m not denying the visceral appeal of bad guys getting what’s coming (Hey! I still read Batman!), but there’s something unnerving about someone not wearing a mask or a cape who seems to enjoy her “work” so much, and pursues it with such self-righteous zeal.
What makes it more troubling is that I kinda loved Save Me from Dangerous Men, her 2019 debut. In it, Nikki is hired by a software company big shot to follow an employee, Karen Li, whom he suspects of selling company secrets. Soon enough, though, Nikki’s caught up in a swirl of violence and betrayal, and men far more dangerous and skilled than the loser boyfriends and pathetic husbands she’s usually whaling on. Meanwhile, the framing sequence of Nikki’s visits to her therapist is tremendously effective, giving context to (and maybe even splashing a little sympathy on) Nikki’s problems.
- Is “S.A. Lelchuk” a guy? Does it matter? Should it matter? Will there be an outcry of “misappropriation of voice” if it turns out he is a dude?