Nothing to Lose
Nothing to Lose has a compelling premise told in an engaging manner. For most of the book, I would have predicted the grade would have been higher. While it was an interesting read, in the end the story’s flaws stuck out just a little too much.
Taylor Bradshaw’s older brother Hunter was once a decorated police detective, until his pregnant girlfriend and her terminally ill mother were murdered with his gun. After a highly publicized trial, he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. Taylor was in medical school before the murders, but she dropped out to apply for law school, determined to prove his innocence.
Wyatt McKinnon is a celebrated author who made a name for himself investigating high-profile cases and documenting them in his bestselling books. He grew up with the pregnant victim and intends to write about the murders for his next project. This brought him into conflict with Taylor during the trial, as she doesn’t want him tearing her brother apart in print. When she learns that Hunter has actually been talking to Wyatt, giving his side of the story, she decides it might not be such a bad idea to have the writer on her side.
Wyatt claims he only wants to tell the facts in the case, and Taylor agrees to work with him to see if they can uncover the truth. Some facts that didn’t come out in the trial point to Hunter’s innocence. But as they start to investigate, Taylor begins to receive threats warning her to stop asking questions.
This is a very strong premise perfect for an emotional read. The author’s writing is smooth, drawing the reader into these characters’ lives and their dilemma. Wyatt and Taylor are both sympathetic characters, even if Taylor is somewhat less developed than he is. The story is briskly paced and well plotted, making for a fast, involving read.
While I mostly enjoyed reading the book, it also had a few problems. First and foremost, the mystery element is far too simple and easily deduced. Honestly, the very first moment one character appeared in the book, I said, “That’s the killer.” An obvious villain isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw if the path the characters follow in solving the case is interesting enough. Here, it isn’t. The mystery is too straightforward, the pieces too easily fitting together, the red herrings too undeveloped to be anything but obvious distractions. It all culminates in the usual scene with the Chatty Killer who explains everything to the heroine.
There’s also a subplot involving Wyatt’s search for his younger sister, who was kidnapped as a three-year-old more than twenty years ago. A huge, improbable coincidence comes into play here, which wouldn’t be so bad, except that it leads to a tedious Big Misunderstanding between the hero and heroine.
The love story didn’t always work for me. Some of the moments where they go from discussing her death-row bound brother to making out a page later seemed forced, to say the least. It would have been nice if Taylor had been a little more developed too. Everything we know about her is defined by her brother’s ordeal, and too often her emotional range is limited to sadness and righteous indignation. I sympathized with her, but there could have been more sides to her personality.
These flaws are all relatively minor and aren’t critical in and of themselves. Together though, they make the book less satisfying overall. This is an interesting story that is mostly well told. I enjoyed reading it, but sadly, in the end, the flaws lingered more than the characters and their story.