Desert Isle Keeper
Bad Moon Rising
On the surface Katherine Sutcliffe’s last two books have been incredible tales of romantic suspense, with as many surprises, chills, and tingles as the most ardent thrill-junkie could possibly require. But, I think more importantly, both this book and the phenomenal Darkling I Listen were fundamentally tales of redemption – stories of people so wounded and damaged by life that their victory over the slings and arrows of an unforgiving fate is ultimately very uplifting. Frankly, this is my kind of “feel good.”
This time out Ms. Sutcliffe tells the tale of Holly Jones, a former prostitute on the run from her murderous former pimp, and J.D. Damascus, former fast-track New Orleans Assistant District Attorney and current low-rent lawyer. When a late night phone call from her terrified best friend Melissa (still working as a prostitute in New Orleans), interrupts the fragile calm of her existence, Holly fears that her old nemesis is back to haunt both Melissa and herself.
Marshaling her humble resources, Holly arrives in New Orleans to begin the search for the now missing Melissa, but an unfortunate contretemps with a caped assailant leads to Holly’s arrest and a police station encounter with the down and out J.D, recruited by Holly to assist in her plight. Because Holly’s attacker turns out to be the Chief of Police (obviously, doing a bit of in depth “research” into the dark side), as her new attorney informs her, the cops brush the whole unpleasant business decidedly under the rug.
But Holly’s bad luck is far from over, despite the brief nature of her arrest. When a reluctant J.D. agrees to give Holly a ride from the police station to her car, they discover that, not surprisingly considering the neighborhood, her car (with all her belongings inside) has been stolen. Despite his misgivings and his determination not to get involved, J.D. takes Holly along to a meeting with his sister-in-law and, eventually, home to his far from luxurious apartment.
Even though at first glance the former hooker and the scion of a socially and politically prominent family have little in common, the connections between the two are deep – and tragic. Since the murder of his wife and two children a few years earlier and the subsequent execution of the supposed serial killer J.D. believes to be innocent, he has been determined to make the man he believes to be the real killer pay – Holly’s former pimp Tyron. The heartbreaking fact that similar murders to those supposedly committed by the executed man are once again taking place only cements J.D.’s beliefs. Holly, who knows Tyron’s brutality all too well, fears that Melissa may have fallen victim to Tyron’s rage and could be the latest victim in the string of murders.
Let me say unequivicoably that J.D. is another of Sutcliffe’s wounded (and devastatingly attractive) heroes. Despite the despair of his mother, the disdain of his father and brother, and the repeated entreaties of the sister-in-law who is passionately in love with him, J.D. is unable to put his obsession with the past behind him and it’s cost him virtually everything.
Holly, as well, is a wonderful heroine who is easily a match for the incredible J.D. An all-too-alone young woman whose only real family is the missing Melissa, she is understandably scarred by her past and almost as afraid as J.D. of allowing herself to love. Though she is far from a traditional romance heroine, her brave determination to find her friend makes Holly a character to admire. And, I hope most readers, with the exception of those firmly opposed to accepting a heroine who was once a prostitute, will overcome their knee-jerk reaction (as I did) to her former profession and just go with it.
Of course, while Sutcliffe’s story itself is terrific, what really makes this book stand out are the characters. I rooted for J.D. and Holly to overcome the burdens of their past. My heart ached for J.D.’s sister-in-law entombed in a bad marriage and fixated on a man she will never have. I understood the mixture of frustration and love J.D. feels for the nephew who’s confronted with burdens and challenges no teenager should have to bear.
I have to admit that while I loved this book, in ways it’s hard to define it didn’t reach quite the sublime levels achieved by Darkling I Listen. But, with that said, when compared to the general run of romantic suspense, this is an outstanding book that lovers of the genre won’t want to miss. A word of warning, though: Bad Moon Rising does contain explicit descriptions of violence against women that more sensitive readers may want to avoid.
As someone who’s definitely found a great deal to like in Ms. Sutcliffe’s forays into romantic suspense, I heartily recommend this book to lovers of romance, mystery, and romantic suspense. To put it succinctly, this is a good one – a very, very good one.