The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon. Avon. 2016.
Note: I do not recommend this book to autistic readers. I would advise trauma survivors to tread cautiously, & check out the trigger warnings before reading.
I read this book looking for a strong heroine, a story about a fixer, and heat. (That’s how it was recommended to me.)
The heroine is definitely my favorite character in the book, and is strong in many ways. Some of the moments where she pushes back against controlling men in her life are the best parts of this book. (With a notable exception that I will get to in a bit.)
If you can get on board with the non-negotiated power play in their sex life and imagine it as consensual, it is pretty damn hot, and one of the things that is working best in the book.
I don’t enjoy the mystery part of mysteries, so I cannot speak to the whodunit part of the story, seek other reviews for information about the thriller/mystery piece.
I was excited to read a story centering a fixer, but I gotta say, it did not satisfy me on this front. I was hoping for something that had more detail about this aspect of his job, how he did it, what it looked like, but it was actually really vague. I kept reaching for it, hoping, and it would slip through my fingers. It was like I was just supposed to buy all these things the book told me about him, without ever getting to see them, or the fixing having any meat to it. It made him seem unreal, and it’s not the only thing that made him seem unreal, elusive, not three dimensional.
The other piece was the way he was framed as a disabled character, both the depiction of PTSD and the coding of him as autistic.
The hero is very much framed as a trauma survivor, with a tragic past that has made him a man with grey morals and barely leashed rage. The reader gets so many details of his trauma history, without actually having him feel like a real trauma survivor. So, the details just feel exploitative and othering. As a trauma survivor myself, who spent 20 years in the trauma field, it felt like he was a caricature of the skewed idea society has of trauma survivors, not someone who had been through what I am told he survived. It felt false and inaccurate. On top of that, it framed him as broken because of trauma in a way that felt deeply ableist to me as a reader.
In addition, he is coded as autistic, and the depiction of that is intensely ableist. He is described as being unable to communicate, have relationships, have feelings, talk to people alone. The talking to people alone thing is a huge plot point, his friends are often trying to intervene in him ever having private conversations. He is othered all throughout the book by pretty much everyone in it. The heroine frequently says ableist things that frame him as a robot, someone with no emotions or empathy. She mostly does this in response to his controlling and creepy behavior, but also in response to his communication difficulties. At the same time, its like the book justifies him stalking her, being “creepy”, being controlling (spoiler, highlight to read) and kidnapping her, like it was saying he did those things because he was autistic. Without ever saying the word autistic, this story constantly evokes ableist tropes about autistic people, including the one where they “learn to feel” by falling in love. His characterization felt deeply toxic in its ableism, and was harmful to me as an autistic reader. It hurt to read this book.
The story also feels like it justifies his controlling behavior and stalking by framing it as romantic and protective and in contrast, not as abusive as another relationship. This is an awful way to frame these behaviors.
I never got on board with them as a couple. He treated her quite badly, and she was also pretty horrible to him. And it felt like I was being told they loved each other, not shown how that happened, so I didn’t buy it.
- Autistic coded hero with PTSD
- Heroine with PTSD
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Detailed descriptions of family violence, intimate partner violence, murder, gaslighting, emotional abuse, physical violence, stalking, missing children, and survivor guilt throughout the story. These elements drive the plot and are intertwined in the story in a way that’s unavoidable. The unraveling of the mystery at the end includes many of them as well, so don’t expect to be free of them at any point.
Substantial ableism built into the story. (See comments above for more detail.) Ableist tropes about autistic people are everywhere in this story. Framing of trauma survivors as broken.
Kidnapping, stalking, and controlling behavior excused by autism and framed as romantic and for the character’s protection, while being somewhat challenged by the love interest and friends.
Non-negotiated light D/s dynamic during sex. Light play with restraints. Oral sex. Penetrative sex.
- Source of the book: I bought this book myself.
- I have had no contact with the author.
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Other Relevant Reviews
- Review of Whip, Stir and Serve that discusses the autism representation
- Review of The Coyote’s Cowboy that discusses the neuroatypicality representation
- Review of Jagged that discusses the PTSD representation
- Review of A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power that discusses the trauma representation