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Friday, May 03, 2013

New Novel of Suspense Not Very ... Suspenseful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Abby Bennett kisses her husband and 15-year-old daughter goodbye, all she can think about is all the quiet, alone time she's going to enjoy while their gone on a two-day camping trip.  Though she doesn't understand why, things between her and Nick, her lawyer husband, have felt tense.  Something's bugging him; he just won't tell her what.  Abby's hoping the little break from each other will give them both the space they need, that upon his return, they can finally talk about the concerns Nick's hiding behind his stubborn silence.  She's sure it's nothing too terrible—financial worries, work stress, or maybe the strained relationship between Nick and their college-aged son, Jake.  Whatever it is, Abby knows they can work it out, just like they always have.  But for now, she's looking forward to a nice, worry-free weekend all to herself.

As the duo heads for their campsite in the Texas Hill Country, Abby tries to erase her unease over a storm brewing in the area.  Nick's a safe driver, she tells herself.  He's got 4-wheel drive and would never take unnecessary risks with Lindsey in the car.  But when Abby receives a distressing phone call from Lindsey, she panics.  The connection's so garbled Abby can't understand what her daughter's saying—something about her dad—but she can hear the panic in her voice.  Something's wrong, very wrong.  Storm warnings are all over the news and Nick and Lindsey aren't answering their phones.  Abby knows she's crazy to try to track them down in dangerous weather conditions, but she has to try.

Her search yields nothing.  After days, weeks, months even, she has no answers.  In the aftermath of the violent storm that rocked the Hill Country, her husband and daughter have disappeared without a trace.  Did their SUV slip off into a remote canyon somewhere?  Or, is the media correct in their nasty insinuations that Nick ran off with an associate and a bundle of stolen money?  Abby can't imagine Nick doing anything so wrong, but, the more she learns about his recent activities, the more she wonders—did she know her husband at all?  

As unsettling as its premise is, I thought Evidence of Life by Barbara Taylor Sissel sounded intriguing.  And it would have been, had it been executed better.  To start with, none of the characters are fleshed-out enough to be truly knowable, let alone likable.  Abby won my sympathy to a point, but after 100 or so pages, her self-pitying, me-me-me attitude started to wear thin.  Couple weak character development with a slow-moving, clichéd plot; ho-hum writing; and no real surprising twists or turns and you get a suspense novel that's just not very ... suspenseful.  The novel offered some intriguing possibilities, it just didn't explore them well enough to keep my attention.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve)

Grade:  C-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder invectives), violence and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Evidence of Life from the generous folks at Harlequin/MIRA via those at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I decided against reading this one; it looks like the right decision.


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