Night of the Blackbird
It wasn’t hard to picture Kelly’s Pub in Boston and the family that surrounds it, which is portrayed in the latest by Graham. Perhaps I’ve been watching too many old episodes of Ryan’s Hope on SoapNet, but the place and people fell into place pretty easily. What didn’t gel as well were the plot and the relationships of the protagonist.
Moira Kelly is the host of a cable television travel show. Though she’s busy with her work and life in New York City, she’s expected to return to Boston for her family’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. She decides to use the visit to get footage of the festivities for her show and to introduce boyfriend Michael McLean to the family. Once she arrives there she’s less then pleased that her old boyfriend and longtime family friend, Dan O’Hara, is visiting as well. Her stress over his presence is complicated by the knowledge that something dangerous is going on in her parents’ pub and she doesn’t know who’s involved.
Picturing the pub and its inhabitants was easy. Enjoying the affection Moira has for her family and friends was equally pleasant. But when it got down to her relationships with Michael and Dan the difficulties set in. Though she’s not a hundred percent sure that she loves Michael, she is determined to work on the relationship. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence of this. Every scene is more forced then the last. Her lingering feelings for Danny are too well drawn.
It’s perfectly acceptable for a protagonist to be torn by her feelings, but Moira’s are so strong for Danny and so weak where Michael is concerned, that she becomes increasingly unlikable. She’s not being fair to either man. Furthering the problem is the fact that she strongly suspects Danny may be involved with the dangerous events swirling around the pub. At one point she’s contemplating sleeping with Danny to find out what she can about his activities:
Why did she just want, with her whole heart, to prove that Danny was innocent? Or did she just want that one last chance to sleep with him before…before admitting he was a cold-blooded assassin who just might be willing to kill even her?
What? She’ll not only have sex with him to find out what he’s up to, she’ll do so thinking he might murder her at any time? Not only is that less than admirable, it’s downright stupid. Which brings up the central concern with this novel. The first half flows well and brings the reader into the world of the pub very effectively. The second half becomes increasingly disjointed as the needs of the plot overwhelm the characters. They begin to act in increasingly unlikely ways because the plot requires it, not because of any true development of their story and relationships.
The reader is left with an increasingly disconnected feeling. And by the time the plot winds down, there’s little left to enjoy in the relationships of these people. Characters, and a romance, that started out with strong rooting value are little served by the story. Night of the Blackbird proved a disappointment for this longtime fan of Heather Graham.