I rarely actively recommend people not read a book, but in this case…In Criminal Paradise by Steven M. Thomas (Ballantine, February 2008), the first-person protagonist Robert Rivers at worst rapes the Vietnamese girl he rescues from the sex trade, at best takes extreme advantage of her. (I’d say rape, frankly.) Up until this point, the book has been relatively benign, but this sexual encounter is so predatory and described in such intense detail, especially compared to the style around it, that it’s easily one of the most disgustingly prurient things I’ve read in recent years. It’s morally repugnant not just because of the situation but because of the lengths Thomas goes to to justify it in the narrative. There is no reason for this act to occur, either, in terms of the plot. Nor does Rivers’ action seem at all consistent with his character to that point.
Ironically, in this case the much-maligned (rightly so) Harriet Klausner actually read the book closely enough to notice this fact. Others, like this Mysterious Galaxy bookstore guest reviewer (scroll down), must not have read the whole book or thinks it was perfectly fine.
I think it’ll be fascinating to note which reviews mention this scene and which do not. I’d be willing to bet many of those that don’t…didn’t finish the entire book. Because ignoring this scene would be next to impossible.
(It’s probably unimportant to mention that the book also devolves from that point, especially the ending, which has some ludicrous plot developments.)