Grade : B

Sandra Brown gently tackles the delicate topic of end-of-life rights in her latest thriller Overkill, a tale of sex, murder, and justice.

When an attractive woman shows up on his doorstep with a sheath of papers and stilettos that sink into the North Carolina mud, disgraced quarterback Zach Bridger thinks he knows precisely why she has come. A developer has been trying to entice him to sell his gorgeous mountainside property but Zack isn’t budging. He gives the woman a few choice words, attempting to send her on her way with a firm – and impolite – no.

Kate Lennon is a rising star in her field, a state prosecutor known for her meticulous work and strong ethical stances. Zack might have mistaken her for some real estate guru’s lackey, but she has no intention of letting him shake her off with his bad attitude and cold demeanor. When he tears up the paperwork she hands him, she follows it with a business card and a command for him to meet her the next day at the location written on the back. Then she leaves.

Zach, made curious by her confidence that he’ll show up, pieces the ripped letter together and realizes she has a reason for her certainty. Rather than trying to get him to sell his land, Kate is there about his ex-wife. Getting hitched to Rebecca Pratt had been one of Zach’s biggest mistakes – their ten-month marriage had taken only three months to implode into affairs, drunken fights, and drug-fueled public fiascos – Rebecca was a messy party girl who liked being in the news and didn’t care about smearing Zach’s image. Their divorce was meant to free Zach from her and all the nasty publicity she thrived on, but four years after they parted ways, Zach received a shocking call. Rebecca was the victim of a violent assault, choked nearly to death during a ménage à trois that had taken a very bad turn and left her in a vegetative state. It wouldn’t have affected Zach – except for causing him to pity her – but in typical Rebecca fashion, she had failed to remove his name from her medical power-of-attorney, and Zach was tasked with making an impossible choice as to whether or not to keep her on life support. Rebecca’s religious parents were furious at his having this kind of power over Rebecca’s life and caused a media storm to erupt around the situation. Zach ultimately walked away, letting the Pratt family have the final say, but the traumatic event left him a mess, unable to continue his stellar career and besmirched in the eyes of his once adoring fans.

That’s the past. In the present, Rebecca’s attacker, Eban, is released from prison on a good behavior proviso. Kate is livid about this miscarriage of justice and determined to see him back behind bars – only double jeopardy means she can’t retry him for the same crime. Her only hope is to have Rebecca disconnected from life support because with Rebecca dead, the wealthy, entitled Eban can be tried for murder. But Rebecca’s father won’t authorize such an act. Kate needs Zach to override him by using his power of attorney.

Eban’s lawyer is no fool. Fully aware that Eban’s shortened sentence has the D.A.’s office in a tizzy, he understands just what could happen if Rebecca dies. Not only could Eban face a murder trial, but the friends who perjured themselves for him have also since distanced themselves and it is entirely plausible they might be willing to tell the truth the next time they are forced on the witness stand. Advising his client of these issues is what he is ethically required to do – but the man has serious qualms as to what will happen once he does. He is right to be concerned – Eban has no intention of leaving himself vulnerable to a return prison stay. And he has the money, connections, and lack of scruples to ensure that never happens.

With over thirty novels under her belt, Sandra Brown is an expert at writing mysteries. She has smooth, descriptive prose which makes her books a pleasure to read and the pacing here is perfect for the story she is telling. The plot is expertly done – the question of just what happened to Rebecca and the suspense engendered by Eban’s callous behaviors as he exits prison is pitch perfect.

This is more suspense than romance and Kate and Zach’s relationship is left at the HFN stage. The author does a nice job of showing how they got there and building the relationship, but I’m glad she left it where she does. A HEA would not have felt natural given the short amount of time they have together and how much they have going on during that period.

I liked Zach. He is the typical Alpha hero that Brown writes about – strong, successful, smart, wealthy, loyal to the few people he has in his life, and protective of the heroine once he meets her. He doesn’t break new ground for the author but his familiarity is part of his appeal.

I liked Kate less because of how she handles the situation with Rebecca. Rather than meeting with Zach and Rebecca’s dad and honoring their reluctance to pull Rebecca off life support, Kate badgers them. I hated how she approaches Zach during their second meeting, coyly rehashing the horror that surrounded Rebecca’s assault before finally being honest with him about why she is there. I found her excuse for being interested in Rebecca’s incident flimsy – there are close to three thousand rapes every year in Georgia (where the crime happened.) I expected at some point for the text to show that Kate had inside information on Eban, but it doesn’t. The narrative does share an experience that would have explained why Kate was interested in seeing rapists brought to justice but it doesn’t enlighten us as to why she is drawn to this particular one. I couldn’t help but think her investment here was because this would be a career-making case. She is smart, driven, and ethical – all points in her favor – but she’s a tad too willing to use others to get ahead.

Part of the conflict surrounding Rebecca is the right-to-life issue. Is someone kept alive through feeding tubes and medical interventions but otherwise technically brain dead truly alive? I’ve seen some books do an amazing job of analyzing that question but I struggled with how it is dealt with in Overkill. It is presented as a clash between a religious family and a fact-driven lawyer but the people of faith are depicted as duplicitous, bible-thumping jerks. It’s done in a rather heavy-handed manner and is jarring rather than enlightening. Fortunately, it’s a relatively small part of the story.

Kate’s seemingly self-serving concern over Rebecca’s criminal case and the inept handling of the Pratt family’s faith issues keep Overkill from DIK status but it is still a really good suspense novel. I think fans of the author will enjoy this and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a straightforward, stand-alone mystery.

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Reviewed by Maggie Boyd

Grade: B

Book Type: Mystery|Suspense

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : August 18, 2022

Publication Date: 08/2022

Review Tags: Georgia

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Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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