The Definite Object; A Romance of New YorkDecember 17, 2009
The Definite Object is the second Jeffery Farnol book I’ve read. It’s also the second Jeffery Farnol book I’ve picked hoping to find out that it was an early regency romance in the vein of Georgette Heyer, as I’ve read that they co-created the genre. I guess I missed the subtitle. But I find myself wondering whether the regencies are any different. Do they also all feature disaffected millionaires going incognito in order to hang out with poor people? Perhaps someday I will find out.
The disaffected millionaire in The Definite Object is Geoffrey Ravenslee, who likes to race cars and box with his chauffeur and (apparently) be cheated by his servants. He realizes that he’s not doing anything with his life, so when he finds young Spike Chesterton attempting to burgle his home, he follows Spike home to Hell’s Kitchen, hoping to find someone to fall in love with. He finds Hermione Chesterton, Spike’s sister, who is of course exceptionally beautiful, as well as virtuous and hardworking.
Spike is mixed up with a bad crowd, the worst member of which, Bud McGinnis, wants to marry Hermione. Bud has already driven one girl to suicide, and spends a lot of time trying to get Spike drunk. Geoffrey beats him up. It all feels like Farnol has raised the level of melodrama much higher than the story requires. There was one thread of the plot that I really liked, though: Soapy, one of Bud’s henchmen, is actively trying to bring about Bud’s downfall (he was in love with Maggie Finlay, the aforementioned suicide), and he’s the only character who seems to be aware of how events are playing out — everyone else is pretty self-involved. He’s not quite a bad guy, since he’s working against Bud, but he’s definitely not a good guy, either, and while I don’t know if I want to call Soapy himself sinister, the scenes in which he plots his revenge definitely are. It’s like the whole storyline was borrowed from a different book– a detective novel from the 1880s, probably — it wouldn’t be out of place in something like The Diamond Coterie.
As for the rest of the book…eh. I don’t know. I could take it or leave it, I guess. With both The Definite Object and The Money Moon, I felt like Farnol’s stories should work better for me than they do. And that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading them. Mostly I did. There’s just something sort of…uninspired, I guess, about his writing. But I’ll probably keep reading his books — until I find one of the regencies, anyway.