I’m starting to think they’ll let just about anyone publish a suspense novel these days. Apparently some readers must be gobbling them up like candy. I thought I’d read this one because it sounded exciting. World War II! British Intelligence and American OSS! Pilfered Nazi Gold! Unfortunately, this was nowhere near as interesting as it sounded.
It’s 1979, and FBI agent Alex Cruz discovers that British Intelligence is looking for Jillian Meade, who visited two people in England just before they were murdered. When Alex phones her mother’s Minnesota home where Jillian is visiting, he finds out that Jillian’s mother has just been murdered and her house has been burned. Jillian is alive, but in psychiatric care.
Alex heads right out to Minnesota and begins to investigate. The local deputy sheriff is very protective of Jillian, who is locked in psychiatric care, writing feverishly in a notebook. Alex isn’t sure if Jillian is responsible for her mother’s death (or for the deaths in England), but she does seem to be up to her ears in something. As Alex questions the local populace, he finds differing pictures of Jillian and her mysterious, beautiful mother Grace. Grace was a pillar of the community, but perhaps not the best mother. Jillian was aloof and ungrateful – or perhaps just neglected. All of their problems have deep roots in the past. There are terrible secrets surrounding Grace’s intelligence work and Jillian’s birth in 1944.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. The World War II stuff is clearly the most interesting part of the book, and it takes forever for any of it to even be mentioned. Instead we get a prelude of over a hundred pages, with mundane details about Alex and his completely unexciting existence. The kind of details that make you want to shout a sarcastic “Oh really?” to anyone who might be within earshot. Stuff like Alex staying in a excrutiatingly described motel, with paper covers on the cups (imagine that), or seeing farmers in caps with the logos of farming machinery companies – all of which are named. Yawn.
Interspersed with this is heavy-handed foreshadowing reminiscent of bad film noir. Every other chapter seems to end with some foreboding statement from Jillian or Alex like, “And if only I’d known how much worse it was going to get.” After awhile even the densest reader would surely get the point; bad stuff is coming! A little foreshadowing goes a looooong way.
When Smith finally gets around to telling about the World War II stuff it’s at least interesting, although she does leave questions unanswered. A lot of the secrets from the past are awfully distasteful, which is bound to happen when Nazis are involved, but things do wind up nicely in the end.
But even with these relatively interesting scenes, this isn’t a book I’d recommend. The obvious foreshadowing and odd pacing (never welcome in a suspense novel) make it an average read at best. As a rough draft or an idea for a book, Deadly Grace has some merit. But as a finished book available in hard cover, it’s definitely not worth the price.
I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.