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
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
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.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?