Don't Look Now
A person can’t help but be intrigued by a book which opens with the line, “I didn’t kill Harvey Kredd; somebody beat me to it.” From there we learn how Claire Westbrook’s distinctly unpleasant boss met his end. Actually, the reader also learns quite a bit about Claire as she proceeds to give a brief history of how she came to be basically indentured to Harvey Kredd, the sleazebag attorney who financed her law school education.
Claire is an attorney at Kredd and Associates, a firm that seems to consist of the well-known Harvey Kredd – who makes a fortune – and his lowly associates, who are paid dirt. Claire is not happy in her job, but feels compelled to stay based upon a contract she made with Kredd years before his murder. After his death, Kredd’s son steps in and makes it clear that Claire is not going to be leaving the firm.
Soon after Kredd’s murder, things go from bad to worse for Claire. She continues to work at the firm she hates, while also dealing with some serious worries at home. Claire’s sister died years before, and Claire has since been raising her niece, the now thirteen-year-old Emma. Emma’s father, whom Claire believes murdered Emma’s mother, is due to get out of prison soon and he wants his daughter. As Claire tries to deal with this new development in her life, she finds herself sucked into the Kredd murder case and the other murders that follow closely behind it. These murders all hit close to home and it is soon apparent as well that someone is after Claire.
Into this mix steps Tony Sonterra, Claire’s police officer ex-boyfriend. As the violence around Claire escalates, so does his concern and, as time passes, it becomes more and more obvious that Tony and Claire have unfinished business between them. It’s just as apparent that Claire is unwilling to kindle this old flame. However, as events throw these two closer together, her resistance begins to crumble.
Claire’s initially sardonic tone reminded me at first of the voice of Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich’s novels. (The presence of the gorgeous cop ex-lover in Claire’s life helped me draw this parallel as well.) Detective Tony Sonterra is one sexy loose end that Claire does not seem to know how to handle. She swears that she doesn’t want to see him again, then hops into bed with him very early in the story in an out-of-place love scene (only hours after Claire finds a dead body in her car, no less) that seems to come from nowhere.
Actually, a lot of things seem to come out of nowhere in this book, a major reason why my initial sense of curiosity faded away all too soon. The action is fast and furious as bodies begin to pile up around Claire and she attempts to uncover the killer before she becomes one of the corpses herself (this is not a plotline for the highly squeamish, by any means). The murders, the situation with Claire’s niece, and Claire’s relationship with Sonterra all pull the plot in different directions and result in some definite pacing problems. Many plot surprises are sprung on the unsuspecting reader, especially toward the end, and the awkward manner in which they are set up makes for a rather choppy and unsettling read.
For example, Claire and Tony go back and forth between cold enmity and hot and heavy bedroom sessions, often without much transition. This behavior is rather peculiar and never fully explained. Claire and Tony have apparently had issues with one another, but these issues never seem to get explored, nor does their relationship seem to be defined for much of the book. Apparently, the reader just needs to accept that neither Claire nor Tony is terribly introspective – at least not on this subject. In addition, Claire is kept busy chasing and being chased by a killer and dealing with her niece. Not a lot of time is left for the reflection and soul-searching that this couple seems to need.
One can tell as the author reveals more and more background information about Claire’s tough past that she is trying to create a sympathetic character. There are occasions at the beginning when this succeeds and I really did find myself rooting for Claire. As the story grew more over-the-top, though, character development suffered. The story is told in the first person, which I normally enjoy for its sense of letting me get inside someone’s head. But Claire gives little beyond straight factual narration, with only vague hints of her opinion of it all. As a reader, I found this frustrating.
Miller does deliver a fast-paced tale with some often clever turns of phrase. For the first part of this novel at least, she peoples Claire’s world with some sharply funny folks who are entertaining to read about and who do keep the action moving along at a brisk clip. But after a promising start, the book turned out to be a disappointingly average romantic suspense read as the various plotlines diverged and became somewhat improbable. If you absolutely must read this book, I’d definitely advise waiting for the paperback release.