A Facebook memory reminded me of how much I hated Jackie Collins’s last novel, although I have since come to the conclusion that either the chemo had turned her brain to mush or, like the Harper Lee conspiracy theory, she was bullied into it by a greedy ‘carer’ in her vulnerable final months. It really was an extremely disappointing end to an engaging series that, while it had been flagging in its last few installments, did not end to deserve on such a blehhh note.

Lucky Santangelo is still her typical bad-ass, and that’s where the resemblance to the rest of the series ends. Paige, who Lucky previously had an excellent, part-maternal, part-sisterly relationship with, has morphed into a gold-digger who shares a mutual loathing with her step-daughter and her previous healthy, curious bisexuality has morphed into something depraved. I was half-waiting for the dogs and peanut butter to come out. Naturally, in the epilogue, she meets a depraved end fitting her depraved lifestyle.

And Venus? Remember Venus? Feisty, whip-smart chameleon who changed from day to day into whoever she felt like being that moment? Fun, canny Venus who was profoundly insightful as to the double standards of Hollywood, and society at large, who had made a lot of sacrifices to be true to herself but was happy with those sacrifices, if not the society that said she (but not any of her husbands or lovers or her bludging brother) had to make them? That Venus has become a woman who moulds herself to whatever her current man desires. It comes across a lot worse in the book than how I just wrote it.

And Gino. I knew Collins would eventually kill Gino off – the guy had to be pushing a hundred and hadn’t been hugely relevant to the story for half the series. But I was hoping he might at least be afforded the dignity of a brave death – perhaps facing down a mountain lion that was threatening his grandchildren? Something very Gino-ish like that, who was as loyal and brave as he was fierce and bad-ass – after all, he was Lucky’s father, she had to learn it from somewhere. But instead, he gets shot in the back and much of the novel meanders through figuring out whodunit (while interjecting sadsack no-identity Venus and gold-digging Paige.)

Spoiler alert: it was some far-flung Bonatti relative. I think they imported the guy from Italy. Seriously, at what point of half a century of the Santangelos wiping our any Bonatti who came their way should they have stopped and thought, hey, this feud started before any of us were born, everyone who’s tried to kill them has ended up dead themselves, the pile of bodies is entirely on our side, maybe we should give up and live in peace with them? Every time a Bonatti shows up, their motivation is even flimsier than the previous installment. I actually got it when it was about Enzio and his sons (why wasn’t Donatella all, ‘Score, the Santangelos woman got rid of my abusive husband for me!’?) but after that that it was like, what do these people hope they’re trying to achieve that a dozen people before them failed to???

You know what would have been a great read?  A book where Lucky breaks the REAL Paige and Venus out of wherever they’ve been stashed and the three women go on to annihilate their doppelgangers.I want THAT book. Joan, for the love of God and your sister’s memory, PLEASE write that book. I’m willing to forget The Santangelos ever happened if you do.

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