Baby Shark by Robert Fate
Review by Cheryl R. (Spuddie)
#1 Baby Shark series; Protagonist: Kristin “Baby Shark” Van Dijk
Kristin Van Dijk’s life changed forever one fateful night at a pool hall in Texas in 1952. She’s only 17, but she’s there with her father who’s a traveling pool shark. Her mother having died a couple of years previously, Kristin’s father gave her a choice of traveling with him and living in the back of his big old car or going to live with stuffy, religious Aunt Dora in Oklahoma City. You’re sixteen, curious about the world, haven’t yet really gotten to know your father and have just lost your mother—which would you choose? Right. Now Mr. Van Dijk isn’t your typical hustler. He’s a rather erudite pool shark and the trunk of their car contains just as many books as clothes and other possessions, and he generally seems to have done a fairly good job of looking after his daughter.
That is, until he misjudges an opponent’s intentions and Kristin is forced to watch her father brutally beaten and killed, and then she herself is raped repeatedly, beaten senseless and left for dead in the burning pool hall—except that the owner, a diminutive Chinese man named Henry Chin, who has watched his own son be murdered as well, drags Kristen from the fire. After many weeks of hospital stays and surgeries, Kristin leaves to live with Henry on his isolated farm where she has her own small cottage and begins to plot revenge on the four men who left her an orphan and so physically and emotionally scarred.
Henry brings in a team of old friends who specialize in different things—hand to hand combat, firearms, physical training of all sorts—and Kristin trains hard, while Henry has hired a private investigator to help figure out who the men were and locate them. The police, of course, are just not that interested in pursuing justice. And after awhile, Kristin also decides she wants to shoot pool like her daddy, so one of his old cronies comes to work intensely with her and she becomes very good, eventually being given the name Baby Shark.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The biggest problem I had with it was that this was 1952, supposedly, and yet very little about it made me feel like it was 1952. The attitudes of people, the way Kristin dressed and acted, even the medical attention and surgeries she had after her beating seemed too modern and didn’t work for me; she was obviously a modern woman transported back in time and would have stuck out like a sore thumb in her tight jeans. Much of what happened with the training and these mysterious friends of Henry’s also just seemed very implausible. So as much as I was rooting for Baby Shark, I just couldn’t really get fully behind her and the story because I never was quite able to believe it—and there was too much of the anachronistic about it to simply suspend disbelief. I’ve given it three stars for originality mostly, but I’ve decided not to read on in the series.