I have never read any of Johansen’s other books, so I have no idea how Margaret fits into her other stories. I do know that she is a minor character from some of Johansen’s previous books, but that is the extent of my knowledge.
In No Easy Target, Iris Johansen tells the story of Margaret, who has the ability to to speak with animals and sense the feelings of other humans (when they are extremely intense). Margaret has been hunted her whole life, and has worked hard to put her past behind her. But a mystery man named Lassiter has been chasing her for a long time, and has finally caught up to her. She gets thrown into his own scheme for revenge, but sees a path for her own along the way.
I have to admit this book is rather hard to summarize, since the premise is very minimal. Much of the basic plot information is doled out as the book goes on, which you would think would keep the book moving quickly, but instead I found it to drag along, especially in the beginning.
The novel begins with Margaret being chased and caught by Lassiter, which is rather exciting, but then there is a boring middle section where nothing much happens as we prepare for exciting ending. Johansen tries to use this time to hint at some character development in Margaret and development in Margaret and Lassiter’s relationship, but I found it completely unrealistic and choppy. Instead, there are quick changes in Margaret’s thoughts towards her situation and Lassiter (who did kidnap her!). Some changes in her feelings towards Lassiter were attributed to her ability to sense and feel the emotions of others, but I found that a thin excuse for subpar character development. The developments in Margaret and Lassiter’s relationship should have been thought out a little better, and explained more clearly to the reader so their relationship would actually make sense.
But even if their relationship had developed in a more realistic way, I think I would still have problems with it. The romance between Margaret and Lassiter seems forced and sometimes fake. If Johansen had wanted Lassiter to serve as a romantic interest for Margaret, maybe she should have made him not kidnap her?
Margaret’s own character is quite interesting. I admire how independent and determined she is, but her quick-changing emotions are not very realistic. She changes emotions and opinions on things in a span of a few pages, or less, which doesn’t fit with her stubborn personality. It seemed like Johansen was changing Margaret’s thoughts to suit the plot and romantic interest, rather than sticking to Margaret’s character. I found this quite disappointing, since I love a well-executed, strong female lead, and Margaret’s changing persona gave me half of that, and half of someone else. The ending is meant to reflect Margaret’s independent spirit, but I found that hard to understand due to her fluctuating character throughout the novel.
My main complaints with this novel are due to characterization, and a bit of plot development. The story isn’t anything super original, but it is still quite interesting. I really enjoyed Margaret’s connection with animals throughout the book, and I think this could be a promising plot point for future novels if this turns into a series (which seems likely).
I gave this novel 2/5 stars.
I received an advanced digital copy for review in a giveaway from the publisher. All thoughts are my own, honest opinion. No Easy Target will be available for purchase on April 25th, from St. Martin’s Press.