For nearly half of the book, I thought I had a keeper going. Then all hell broke loose and the story went off in a bizarre direction, never to return. Crashing Down tells two tales: One, a very personal story of childhood abuse; the other, a less-than-stellar tale of romantic suspense. While the story of a woman’s journey through sexual abuse, and her final acceptance and healing was riveting, when coupled with a truly ridiculous suspense yarn involving a likable but fairly inept detective/hero, over-the-top dastardly politicians, a secret love affair, a frail grandmother who’s not what she seems, and a stereotypical villain (or two, or three!), plus at least five other people and their stories, it became totally off-the-wall, and an otherwise powerful personal tale was brought down to what amounted to a highly contrived, emotionally jarring and episodic soap opera.
Let me focus for a moment on Carrie Holt. At thirty-four, she is a prominent writer, but as a child, she had been sexually assaulted from the ages of about six to about twelve by a much-loved, thoroughly trusted church administrator. Carrie has grown up distrustful, lonely, wary of getting close to people, and has made little effort to confront and overcome her terribly traumatic past. When she is called upon to speak at a writers’ festival, featuring Christopher Breen, the very man who abused her for so many years (and got away with it), Carrie doesn’t know what to do. She feels like killing him; she wants to confront him. Carrie then attempts to get through to her mentally withdrawn, seemingly senile grandmother, to try to have her grandmother help her put the puzzle together so Carrie can deal with her tormentor for once and for all.
Had the author chosen to stick with this tale, and nothing more, the resultant book would have been a keeper of the first magnitude. The writing was good, the scenes well-depicted, and there was enough material built-in to this horrific situation to keep the pages turning: Carrie facing Breen; Carrie making the world aware of Breen’s threat to other children; the hero, Nicky, working with Carrie to bring Breen to justice, then helping her move forward, Nicky’s love and emotional support the healing force Carrie needs to come to grips with her past. But, it didn’t happen like that.
What did happen was Detective Nicky D’Amico, already after Breen, knows the man assaulted Carrie and tries to get her to tell him what happened so he can use it in his case against the now powerful, Christian kiddy televangelist. Nicky has a nice sister, nice parents, and he’s a nice guy. I wouldn’t give him any points for top-notch detective work, however. Well, there are slimy politicians who try to kill Carrie, Breen himself who tries to convince Carrie it was another man who abused her, poison water, an illicit love affair, one too many villains, one too many victims, one person who is victimized too many times, plus, at the high point of the action, for no reason at all that I could think of, the wrong person gets shot!
There’s no romance, either. Oh, Nicky likes Carrie, but Carrie spends the entire book pushing away Nicky long and hard. This would have worked at first, given Carrie’s history. But Nicky’s supposed to be the hero of the tale – Carrie really needed to start cutting this guy some slack if we were ever going to get a love story going here. There’s a happily-ever-after implied, but all-in-all, not an extremely satisfying one. Little time is spent on Nicky, which was a shame because he could have been an okay hero.
But my biggest issue with this book was, before the story even began, we are told by the author that Ms. O’Brien is Carrie Holt. The tale of childhood sexual abuse is the author’s own – every appalling, emotionally shattering detail. My heart goes out to this author; how could it not? Abuse of young children has reached epidemic proportions in this country and responsible adults must be ever watchful to protect our children. But how, after reading this sad dénouement, could I read the fiction that followed without being painfully aware of the fact that these atrocities had happened to the author herself? How could I separate the autobiographical aspects from the fiction? If I had not been given that information at the outset, would I have read the book in a different light? This knowledge put a slant on my perception of the story that I’ve never had to encounter in reading romantic fiction before, and it definitely altered the way I read it.
If the author had formed her tale around Carrie and Nicky, Crashing Down would have worked beautifully and every ounce of sorrow and grief I felt for Carrie (and for the author herself) would have had some meaning. But the convoluted, and even silly-at-times plot, was extremely distracting, and I couldn’t concentrate on the true heart of this book. And that’s really too bad.