by Laurie Breton, contemporary (2006)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 0-7783-2280-7
Davy Hunter and Annie Kendall are two people who have secrets in the town of Serenity. Deputy Sheriff Davy Hunter is a former DEA agent with a somewhat typical tormented past while Annie Kendall is actually Robin Spinney, the widow of a late deputy sheriff who is on the run with her daughter Sophie after she unearthed evidence that exposes a network of corruption that happens to include her late husband's superior Sheriff Luke Brogan. When her late husband's best friend "committed suicide" after she clued him in on the sinister death of her husband, Robin grabbed her daughter and ran. She is now living in fear that Luke will somehow show up in Serenity to remove the threat of the woman who can expose his shady dealings. Can Davy and Annie find love and heal or will Luke show up and spoil the party?
Davy is an appealing hero in that while he is a tortured hero, he never broods as much as he tries to have a cheery exterior and proactively do the right thing. He hopes to find some kind of closure and even redemption for himself by helping Annie and her daughter. I find this kind of proactive Dudley-Do-Right yet vulnerable hero much more adorable than a whiny tortured hero who spends the whole time telling everyone how his life sucks. Annie is also a fine heroine in her own right - she is in trouble but she is no helpless lily waiting for a big strong guy to save her from the wicked world. Ms Breton gives Lily a right mix of vulnerability and steel. Lily is no superheroine and she is way out of her depths when it comes to dealing with villains, but that doesn't mean she's stupid. The secondary characters in this book are pretty well-done too, with many of them, such as a PI hired to track Annie down, being otherwise stereotypical characters written in a manner that makes them interesting and even a little different rather than faithful insertions of obvious stereotypes.
Unfortunately, the pacing in Criminal Intent never seems to attain the right balance with suspense and romance. The suspense elements dominate the early and late portions of the story but the romance dominates the middle portion, and the romance between Davy and Annie is so slow and tentative that I start to wish that the author will speed things up a little soon into that point. The characters are interesting but their relationship, I must admit, can be on the slow and boring side because those two spend quite a while doing nothing but moving in circles. As for the suspense, there isn't much in terms of actual suspense because the reader is told from the start who the good and the bad guys are. It's just a matter of waiting for the nasty Brogan brothers to make a move and for the good guys to of course step in, kick baddie butt, and go home in time to make babies and all.
On the whole, I like the characters of this book but I find the pacing of Criminal Intent too uneven for my liking. There are too many moments when things seem to be happening very slowly for a long time only to rush to a quick denouement when the time is right, just as there are too many moments when everyone seems to be just slowly meandering around waiting for something exciting to happen. The intent, I suppose, is there and it's good, definitely, but the execution is a little off at times.
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