Call me crazy, but I just don’t think two middle school kids should call the shots in a murder investigation.
The kids in question, twelve-year-old Henry and eleven-year-old Lillian, belong to Allyson Stockwell, the new governor of Connecticut. These two adorable scamps show up one night in the home of Kara Galway, Texas defense attorney and close friend of their mother. In a prank most parents would find a jolly good one, Henry and Lillian have run away from summer camp and – in a state they’ve never visited before – traveled hundreds of miles alone to land in Kara’s lap.
The kids produce a letter for Kara allegedly from their mother begging her friend to take the children immediately to Stonebrook Cottage, a small property near the estate where their mother is staying. And (this is a good one) the letter further instructs Kara not to telephone Allyson to verify either the children’s stories or the letter.
Since the kids are obviously scared, it doesn’t take Kara long to discover that Henry and Lillian believe they have been followed by a mysterious man and that they may have seen a little too much of the “accidental” drowning of the former governor, Big Mike Parisi. (The reader is clued in right from chapter one that Big Mike was murdered.)
Now here’s where it gets really frustrating. The precocious ones lock Kara into secrecy by claming attorney-client privilege. And, even worse, she buys it! Enter Sam Temple, Texas Ranger and Kara’s one night stand of a few months earlier. Through a series of painful circumstances, Kara “borrows” her brother’s small plane and flies (yes, she’s a pilot) the children home. Her brother, also a Texas Ranger and Sam’s boss, is angry. And, since Sam suspects that Kara has the kids and hasn’t told law enforcement, he’s angry, too. (Hey, so was I!)
When the scene shifts to Connecticut, things don’t get better. Allyson is keeping secrets. Kara is keeping secrets. Sam is keeping secrets. Not surprisingly, the fact that I developed one major league headache isn’t any secret, either. And, of course, with all this not talking to each other, finding out what really happened to Big Mike and who’s stalking the children is anything but easy, especially since the kids (who know more than anyone) really do end up controlling the course of the investigation.
I think the big problem here is that while Carla Neggers is a good enough Writer – her prose is nice and readable – her plotting in this book leaves a lot to be desired. Simply put, she’s based everything here on two things many, many readers find frustrating: secrets, and decisions that just don’t rank very high up there on the intelligence meter. And through a series of murders, murder attempts, beatings, and bombings, not to even mention a mother who is far too passive when it comes to the welfare of her children, it doesn’t get much better.
As for the characters themselves, because I just couldn’t understand or respect most of the decisions and choices they made, I never warmed up to either Kara or Sam. And Allyson the governor? It’s probably best not to go there, but suffice it to say, this woman would never get my vote.
Regretfully, I had another big problem with the book. Apparently, many of the characters have been featured in earlier books by the author, and during the first fifty pages or so she’s throws out an awful lot of unnecessary details about them. I didn’t need to know most of that stuff to read this book, and it was an additional and very much unwelcome distraction.
I hope, hope, hope that authors and publishers will eventually get the message that the average romance (and romantic suspense) reader has moved way past the point of accepting plots that just don’t pass the smell test. This one, frankly, doesn’t even come close.