BOOK REVIEW / The shade. The birds. The cows.

Danger Zones by Sally Beauman Bantam, pounds 15.99; Victoria Coren reads an epic tale of post-traumatic stress and stunned rabbits

At some point during the Joan Collins court case, it was decided that the blockbuster fad was finished. Fat novels about thin jetsetters were an Eighties phenomenon: time for them to join Soft Cell and shoulder- pads in the retirement home. Well, here we have an old lady determined to zip herself into a Nineties costume and assert her right to live. Casting off the old baubles of designer names and Chasen's dinners, she bedecks herself with Ecstasy, Bosnia and techno, and trips out to join the party.

Danger Zones is a sequel of sorts to Beauman's Lovers and Liars. Its journalist heroine, Gini Hunter, is back, suffering a bit of post-traumatic stress after covering the war in Sarajevo, but rejuvenated by the excitement of a new story involving a girl kidnapped by a villain called Star who (more rewarding than most villains) feeds her party drugs and takes her to Paris. Hot on his trail are Gini, Lindsay Drummond - fashion editor of the Correspondent - and the gorgeous, yet impenetrable Rowland McGuire, features editor. Quite who is deciding what goes in the paper while its editorial staff are bonking each other in Paris is never made clear, but they certainly go home with a scoop.

Journalists are a popular choice of hero for the English blockbuster- writer, probably because we have no film industry. Unlike Splash, last year's masterpiece from Eve Pollard, Val Corbett and Joyce Hopkirk, Danger Zones doesn't show much of the actual newspaper business. Nevertheless, we know they are journalists because they speak in businesslike staccato: "I need a drink. You need a drink. And food," says Rowland. Gini, dismissing a lover, plans to be "Brittle. Dismissive, Light, Maybe a little cheap." This begins to make its own music after a while: "Poor Cassandra, Mina, Gini." Yellow polka-dot bikini.

Beauman clearly feels a little uncertain about the health of the traditional blockbuster, and mixes in plenty of other genres to keep everybody happy. Floating in this miscellaneous brew are chunks of Mills & Boon heart-fluttering, Irvine Welsh drugs gore, Jackie Collins city-hopping, Joanna Trollope pastoral ("The shade. The birds. The cows''). Ms Trollope's favourite brand of stove gets several mentions: where the Eighties novelist name- checked Balenciaga, in the Nineties we make do with just the Aga.

Rowland, too, is a heart-throb for everybody. He reads Proust in French and has "a starred first from Balliol" - a degree so high that it doesn't even exist, not at Balliol anyway. He is taciturn and "unreadable" (brave word, that) like Mr Rochester, and he is also - for anyone who thinks Proust is a bit poncey - an Irish farmer's son who can "break a rabbit's neck with one deft blow". What a great life the reader can dream of sharing: long silences broken only by learned quotes and the occasional squeak of a bunny.

Don't be fooled, by the way, by the enticing cover photo of a topless blonde in PVC trousers: there is only one sex scene in the whole book. And thank God for that, because Gini is an exasperating creature in the sack, constantly emitting low moans and sighs. In fact, she is highly irritating all the time, though perhaps I am blinkered by jealousy of her genetic advantages as an interviewer: faced with Gini's "astonishingly sexy mouth and sweet, trusting grey eyes [Mitchell] felt a sudden lurching need to confide in this woman". It was never so easy for Jean Rook.

Lindsay, the single mum with stretch marks, is a far livelier character, but unfortunately she disappears for about 200 pages. When she turns up again the book gets quite funny, merrily describing her attempts to woo Rowland with some boned-up theories about Eisenstein. The last couple of chapters offer a glimpse of the book that might have been - a breezy, ironic and suddenly subtle story about characters one can actually believe in. No reader, however snobbish, can dismiss a book that is genuinely funny. In a world where all genres were equally respected, Jilly Cooper would be as great a novelist as Proust.

Until the last chapters, however, the only laughs to be had in Danger Zones are at its expense. Nevertheless, for the cruel reader these laughs are frequent, and should not be underestimated.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas