Head On
Grade : D

Head On is a romantic suspense novel with the emphasis on suspense. When former town pariah Mark Jessup comes back to town to try and make peace with his dying father, murder happens and old secrets are not secret any more.

During his senior year in high school, Mark Jessup was speeding in his truck when he plowed into a car full of girls. Three of them were killed, among them his own sister. Only Beth Ann Decker lived and she was terribly injured. Mark was sentenced to prison, Beth Ann underwent a lot of therapy and had to give up her dreams of medical school. She still lives in her home town where she is the hospice nurse for the county hospital. Beth Ann’s latest patient is Mark's father, Hiram Jessup, who is dying of melanoma.

At the Jessup house, Beth Ann is very surprised to see Mark. He is back in town to try and make peace with Hiram, who disowned him after the wreck. Mark became a successful and rich businessman in the intervening years after inventing a device that allows truck owners to check on their drivers (shades of Big Brother). Mark also has a bi-racial son, Eli, from a broken relationship which doesn’t sit well with most of the townspeople, who are almost all small-minded and nasty. Beth Ann doesn’t hold a grudge against Mark - he's quite the hottie! - but she doesn’t think anything can come of their attraction to each other. After all, the entire town thinks of her as Poor Beth Ann – she’s a cripple, don’t you know, and that makes her a Spinster.

Well, almost immediately after Mark gets into town, Beth Ann’s mother Lilly is gruesomely murdered when someone cuts out her breast implants (I swear I am not making this up). Lilly was the richest woman in town, courtesy of a big casino win, and had a lot of enemies since she was very promiscuous and didn’t care whether her lovers were married or not. The sheriff immediately suspects Mark, but he has an alibi. After Lilly’s funeral someone tries to kill Beth Ann, then after Hiram’s funeral a group of thugs beat up Mark, then a man terrorizes Eli. All of these incidents seem to harken back to the car crash and Mark’s role in it. Beth Ann can’t remember it all that well, and Mark has some secrets...so did Lilly, which led to her murder.

I began reading Head On and was soon thoroughly lost. The set up was muddled and I had no idea who these people were or why I should care about them. However, the book soon smoothed out and the middle section was reasonably decent . It was very over the top – I mean almost everyone in the town was racist, drunken, violent, hypocritical, or incompetent – but still readable. Then came the ending, which was so overblown that all I could say was “give me a break”.

Beth Ann and Mark are not particularly interesting. Beth Ann goes from meek to strong, then back to meek, continuing to waver depending on plot requirements. She's nice enough, but altogether bland. Mark is a bit more interesting, but just a bit. Parts of the plot are complicated - other parts simply don’t make sense. Lilly left some clues for Beth that answer all her questions about the crash and the clues are fiendishly complicated. If Lilly wanted Beth Ann to know this information (and evidently she did) why not write a letter and give it to an attorney? But that would be sensible. Finally, after all the shootings, beatings, murders, and intimidation, Mark decides to stay and build a factory since there are some good people in the town. Oh really? I think I counted about two.

Head On isn’t a total flop since the middle was interesting in a cheesy melodramatic way, but because of awkward writing and over the top action, I couldn't wait to finish it. Not much of a recommendation, is it?

Reviewed by Ellen Micheletti
Grade : D

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : June 29, 2007

Publication Date: 2007/07

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