Two Lethal Lies
Do you believe in fate or choice? Can catastrophe really be avoided if we just turn left instead of right and avoid that drunk driver? Walk slowly rather than fast on the ice and miss out from sliding across the parking lot? Or is it inevitable – will we miss one car accident to have another? Will we be caught no matter which direction we run?
Mitch Turner has been on the run ever since his daughter Julia was born, hiding from a villain of unspeakable evil. Their nomadic existence comes to an abrupt halt when Mitch saves a young girl’s life and her family offers them the use of a small home in gratitude. Mitch wishes to stay on the road but Jules wants normality even if just for a short time. Crossroads, small and quiet, seems like the ideal place to her to settle in for the next several months. Pretty much used to giving in to the child’s whims, Mitch resigns himself to small town living. Working as a short term cook at a local diner, he finds himself carefully settling into life with a house, a job and even a dog. And then the killing begins.
Neesy Brown thinks of herself as a loser magnet. None of the men she has managed to hook thus far are keepers, but the new cook at the diner she works at seems different. Not only did he rescue a local child from drowning, he steps in when one of the waitresses is being abused by her husband. Clearly, this guy has what heroes are made of. His relationship with Jules is another point in his favor. Watching the love between him and his daughter gives her a bittersweet feeling, calling to mind the kind of relationship she was never able to have with her own dad. Then murder begins to tear her small town apart and she learns Mitch is not who he seemed to be. Yet, everything within her screams this is a good man, a man worth fighting for. Should she follow her instincts and stand by him, even though those instincts have led her astray before?
I’ll start with what really worked for me in this novel, and that was the pacing. The book balanced really well between the tense, suspense moments and the lull that is needed for us to get to know the characters and understand the action. The beginning was especially good, really capturing my attention and making me want to keep turning the pages.
The story here was excellent too. I was pleased that somehow the super villain aspect of the tale never really crossed over into cheesy for me, as it so often does. Again, the author did an outstanding job of balancing the issue so that what seemed a touch impossible was made plausible by her handling of it.
Jules is a good character, a quirky fun kind of kid you often meet only in the pages of books. I enjoyed watching her read old favorites and thoroughly get into them. Gotta love a fellow reader! She did irritate me at times, not because of things she actually did, but because of Mitch’s response to them. His parenting was long on devotion and short on guidance and that grew really old quickly. Unfortunately, that tended to reflect more on Jules, making her look bratty – but any parent would recognize the signs of who was actually at fault here.
What kept the book from being great for me was that I felt I never really knew who Neesy and Mitch were. Their pasts were alluded to but never really fully developed. With Mitch especially this was an issue, because his past was very much a part of his present day problems. They were both decent, kind people – willing to go the extra mile for a person in need, always loyal and devoted to friends. But this is all we really learn of their internal workings. I just didn’t get a feel for them as much as I would have liked to. And that was a shame because what I did know of them introduced me to characters I could really have loved. Not knowing the characters also meant the romance had less punch than it would otherwise have had. The development, to me, seemed short and based more on mutual attraction and hope than getting to know each other.
The book also dealt very implausibly with a teen suicide issue. Essentially, the attempt was swept under the rug and the family seemed almost to refuse to deal with the issue. Bad, bad way to handle this. Extremely bad. Absolutely not a recommended way to deal with an issue of this magnitude, and it showed poor judgment by all involved. For someone who is sensitive to that, it was handled poorly enough that it might be a deal breaker for the whole novel. I chose to just go with it – I am not a teen suicide risk and as a parent I would certainly know better than to respond in this manner. But because it could be an issue, I wanted to let you know it was here.
One final quibble was that two key people in the villain’s life sort of knew what he was capable of and never dealt with it. Again, I chose to go with it because they lacked evidence and there was nothing one could really do without proof. But it nagged at the back of my mind a bit as the bodies piled up, so I thought I would mention it.
While not perfect, this is a good romantic suspense novel, several steps above the average. If this is a subgenre you enjoy and anything I’ve said has intrigued you, give it a try. You might find it the easy, enjoyable read I did.