Finding Mary Blaine

Grade : B-
Reviewed by Lynn Spencer
Grade : B-
Book type : Romantic Suspense
Sensuality : Subtle
Review Date : August 12, 2004
Published On : 2004

I always thought of Jodi Thomas as a Western romance author or, perhaps, a Women’s Fiction writer. However, in Finding Mary Blaine, Thomas shows that she can deliver the goods on romantic suspense as well. This tale features an interesting heroine and a well-developed suspense plot and, while it had a few bobbles, it was definitely one that I didn’t want to put down.

As the novel opens, Blaine Anderson is going to a women’s clinic. She suspects she may be pregnant and she also fears that her husband, a high-powered attorney who has no desire to be a family man, will not be happy to learn this news – especially since their marriage is very much on the rocks. However, this situation quickly becomes the least of Blaine’s worries when the clinic is bombed.

Upon emerging from the wreckage, Blaine’s first instinct is to go to her husband for help. Before reaching him, however, she comes across information that leads her to believe that she was meant to die in the bombing and, though she doesn’t entirely know what is going on, she does know that she is not safe. So, instead of trying to return home, Blaine hides out in a local homeless shelter with nothing more than the clothes on her back. She tells people only that her name is Mary Blaine, and she maintains this rather precarious existence while she tries to make sense of what is happening around her.

In the meantime, Blaine’s husband Mark believes she is dead and finds himself grieving for her and realizing how much he took her for granted. When he sets out to find out exactly what happened to her, he begins to realize just how little attention he paid to his wife’s life. In addition to finding out more about her, Mark gets to know the people who were important in her daily life, especially the elderly neighbor who befriends him.

One thing that really makes this book work is the heroine. Blaine is more than simply any-woman-in-a-crisis in this story. Thomas instead does a good job of developing her character as events unfold. Blaine starts off as a rather mousy and passive woman, but, as the book progresses, Blaine’s innate kindness starts to match up with an inner strength that she obviously did not know she possessed. The result is a truly human and likable heroine, and this makes the story much more engaging because the reader wants to know what will happen to her.

In addition, the suspense plot is very well-written for the most part. There really seem to be two major set-ups in suspense stories. In the first type, neither the characters nor the reader knows who the villain is or what is happening and both get to learn all the answers at the same time. In the second, the reader knows most of the major answers to the mystery, and simply follows along to see what will happen as the characters discover them. Finding Mary Blaineis a book of the second type and, even though the answer to the mystery is fairly obvious, this book is action-packed and watching the characters unravel the mystery is entertaining indeed.

The major weakness in this book comes with some of the characterizations of the people in Blaine’s life. Many of the people who come in contact with Blaine are from the homeless shelter and, while each of them appear as three-dimensional characters, some of the harshness of their lives is a bit understated. For most of the book, this was not a problem, but by the end, it seemed as though these homeless people were being given a slightly idealistic treatment. There was nothing too off-putting, but it did occasionally jar me out of the story.

Additionally, those readers looking for a suspense story with a lot of romance should know that this may not be the tale for them. It is a good and engaging suspense story, but the romantic element is more understated than it is in many books. The author strikes a good and realistic balance, but this book is definitely more suspense than romance and, as a result, Mark is not as fully developed as he could be. While he turns out to be a decent fellow, his realization that he has been neglecting his marriage and ignoring his wife – and his later determination to change his ways – come a bit out of nowhere.

Still, anyone looking for a good suspense story featuring a hero and heroine somewhat outside the customary secret agent/police officer mold will probably enjoy this one. Jodi Thomas has a wonderful writing style, and Finding Mary Blaine is the sort of book that will keep readers turning the pages.

Lynn Spencer

I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.
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