Sandra Brown knows what she’s doing, all right. Despite an implausible – very implausible – key plot point, she had me with this one. She really had me.
Wealthy Atlanta businessman Paul Wheeler is shot to death by a masked gunman in a hotel elevator with Julie Rutledge, his much younger companion, by his side. Julie has her suspicions about who’s responsible for the murder: Paul’s, slimy nephew, Creighton, who stands to inherit his fortune.
Derek Mitchell is the go-to criminal lawyer for those with the bucks to pay for it. On a return flight home from a vacation in Paris, he is seduced into joining the Mile High Club by a mysterious woman who tells him – cryptically enough – when he attempts to follow her after landing, “you’ve been had.”
With Derek sill reeling from the shock of the experience, the murder victim’s brother approaches him about representing the family in the homicide investigation into Paul’s death on the very day of his return. Derek agrees to meet with the family – including nephew Creighton – on whom the police seem to be fixating, despite his firm and seemingly ironclad alibi.
But slick and patently smarmy Creighton makes Derek’s skin crawl, so much so that he refuses to take him on as client. Derek’s hesitation to get involved with the family is further entrenched when he sees Julie on television and recognizes her as none other than his mysterious seducer.
This book is all about the twists and turns of an intricately constructed plot and it makes for a riveting story. With that said, the most vivid character in the book is the bad guy. Creighton is a movie-obsessed bona fide psychopath and the author succeeds in making him very scary, indeed, without ever turning him into a cartoon. That isn’t easy.
Julie – and I need to be a bit vague here – is a character whose layers are peeled away as the story moves on. Did she ever come to life for me? Well, not really. Derek fares better. He’s a good guy who wants to do the right thing and he is believably flummoxed by his reaction to Julie, a woman he doesn’t have any reason to trust.
Two things are worth mentioning, and the second is definitely a spoiler, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Julie seduces Derek on the plane in order to compromise him so that he will be unable to represent Creighton, the man she believes to be responsible for the murder. Yes, that’s right. That’s the best plan this super smart, super capable woman can come up with. And here’s the second (spoiler ahead): I make it a policy to alert readers when a pet – most especially a pet who almost figures as a character – is in danger. Consider yourself alerted. It should also be noted that even though violence is a recurring motif, most of it takes place off the page. But some – and remember that alert – definitely falls on the hard to take side.
Sandra Brown is a solidly capable author who once again proves that she knows how to deliver a riveting story. Smash Cut isn’t amongst her very best, but it’s a very good one. Just remember my warning.