Written by Sandra Brown — What’s your guilty pleasure, when you’re not crime fiction loving? Mine’s Nora Roberts (and not in her JD Robb persona, either). I like her romantic novels, with their sharp characterisations and snappy dialogue. In Sandra Brown, I think I’ve found the best of both worlds, because this book has romance, great characters and dialogue and a deftly plotted crime story for good measure.
Sting is another guilty pleasure, but we’ll set that one aside because this book has nothing to do with Gordon Sumner – although the police are involved! The sting in question here involves a mere $30 million, fleeced from unsuspecting investors by bent property tycoon Billy Panella and spirited away with the help of his money man Josh Bennett.
Panella, a man of notoriously short temper, was sitting pretty until Josh turned informant and went into protective custody. Now Josh’s sister, Jordie, is in the sights – literally – of two hired hitmen, in a two-bit bar on the outskirts of Tobias, Louisiana. They’re being paid a lot of money by Panella to kill her, so what happens next seems a little off. As Jordie leaves the bar, the men follow her, shots are fired… and suddenly the world tips. One of the gunmen is dead, at the hands of his partner, and thus begins the abduction of Jordie by tough guy Shaw Kinnard, a man wanted for murder in Mexico as well as the recent demise of his partner-in-crime Mickey Bolden.
Hot on their trail are FBI agents Joe Wiley and Greg Hickam who, with the help of local law officer Detective Cliff Morrow, must try to make some sense out of the puzzling occurrences at the bar in Tobias. There are myriad questions to be asked and answers seems hard to come by. And when Josh Bennett decides to escape from his protective custody, suddenly things get a whole lot more confusing.
Brown keeps us on our toes by leapfrogging between scenes while slowly, slowly revealing snippets of back story and tantalisingly fleeting revelations that may or may not be of any real importance. It’s a nifty way of working, and one that will certainly keep you guessing. With more than 70 novels to her name, 50 of them New York Times bestsellers, this is a woman who knows how to put a story together!
The action takes place in the backwaters and bayous of backwoods Louisiana and also in New Orleans and the contrasting settings are described in enough detail to turn up the temperature a notch or two. As does the relationship between Jodie and Shaw. They may be on opposite sides of the fence, but there’s an undeniable bond between this pair and the sexual attraction fair crackles off the page. Not often I can say that about a crime novel!
The characters are many and varied and just about veer away from the chasm of cliche. They’re brought to vivid life by the use of dialogue which rings true and is something of a highlight in a one-off book that would make a great companion on your summer holiday sun lounger, especially if you like your crime with a side order of romance. There are a raft of twists and revelations along the way, some more unpredictable than others, in a story which, though it may not put you on the edge of your seat, will surely prompt a restorative sip of the poolside cocktail.
Hodder & Stoughton
CFL Rating: 4 Stars