Private investigator Dane Whitelaw appears to be minding his own business when Kelsey Cunningham marches into to the local watering hole demanding the whereabouts of their childhood friend, Sheila Warren. Dane brushes off Kelsey’s concern with the excuse that Sheila’s probably run off with some new boyfriend, though he knows it’s not true. He knows that Sheila is dead and that the killer intends to frame him for the murder.
Running against the clock and Kelsey’s prying, Dane tries to find Sheila’s body as well as the killer. Unfortunately, Kelsey’s interference hinders his investigation because he has to take time to pull her out of her out of scrapes with local thugs, not to mention deal with the personal animosity that lies between them due to a one-night stand years earlier. Can they resolve their personal issues before it’s too late? They’d better, because it appears that the killer’s new target is Kelsey.
Hurricane Bay is a fast paced romantic suspense novel that uses several twists and turns to keep a reader guessing as to the identity of the real killer. Each character has secrets and reasons for disliking Sheila. She’s not an evil character, but a sad one who burned her bridges behind her, lashing out at all the people who’ve ever tried to care for her. The fact she was finally asking for help to change her life makes her murder that much more horrible, and even though she’s barely on the page she’s very much a pivotal character in this story.
Dane isn’t an easy hero to like. He’s recently moved home to Key Largo, after the death of one of his clients. There’d been more than a business relationship between them, and he’s come home to mourn. After months of sitting around and watching he’s finally decided to get on with living and opened a P.I. agency when Sheila is murdered. He was the second-to-last person to see her alive and already a prime suspect without being framed. The problem is, despite the fact he supposedly cared for Sheila, he seems to have sexually used her as she used him, and is quite cold and methodical in searching for her killer. He seems more worried about saving his own hide than finding out who murdered her.
Kelsey’s not much better. She’s the only person who really truly seems to have cared about Sheila, but her pushy nature quickly got on my nerves. Her grudge against Dane and her jealousy over the fact he’d been with Sheila just before her death obviously clouds her judgement. She comes across as cranky and self-righteous. She’s also very naïve. Everyone tells her the Sheila wasn’t much better than a prostitute, but Kelsey is sure they’re all wrong, despite the fact she hasn’t seen Sheila in two years. Then there’s the things she does. If she’s told someone is dangerous or untrustworthy, you can bet she’ll show up on their doorstep, alone, to interrogate them. She always realizes about five minutes too late that she’s in danger.
The interpersonal story moves too fast, and there are too many things left unsaid and unexplored for me to believe that Kelsey and Dane are in love. All their friends talk about how their relationships failed because they’ve always been in love with each other. It would’ve helped had we been shown they were in love in some way besides the fact that they couldn’t wait to pounce on each other in bed. There were no conversations about feelings or emotions, just distrust, jealousy and sex. Not exactly the building blocks for a life long commitment.
As suspense, Hurricane Bay is fabulous, but its romantic component doesn’t succeed because its characters are so prickly. Dane and Kelsey came across as cold and selfish, and the ending seemed forced, with everything tied up in a neat little bow. But Graham can write suspense so well that, in the end, this one earns a qualified recommendation, good for a Saturday afternoon of light reading.