I can’t entirely explain why I read these. Okay, okay, when I read the first one I had vague fond memories of some mystery by her I read in college, but I really can’t explain why I kept on reading them, even after realizing just how embarassingly formulaic (and not very well-written) they are.
Looking back after a couple of months, though, I realized that that’s precisely why they were useful to read. As someone who’s interested in people making up stories, I’ve come to realize that structure matters. Johansen structures her books sufficiently tightly that you could probably pull a Morphology of the Folktale on them, and I can imagine inventing a set of rules that would help someone make up a story in this genre. Take an attractive woman with a weird skill (fighting fires, training dolphins), send a Big Bad after her, put her in a situation where she uses her weird skill to escape, introduce a love interest that she doesn’t get along with but has to work with nonetheless, etc., etc.
I very well might read some more Johansen at some point, just because I want to play with such formally structured stories - even if I’ve read half-a-dozen better thriller writers in the past year.