by Laurie Breton, contemporary (2005)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 0-7783-2151-7
Laurie Breton is quietly but certainly building up a body of work that can cement her reputation as an author of atmospheric romantic suspense with well-developed characters. There is no overreliance of gimmicks like super secret agents in some League of Justice organization to cover the fact that Ms Breton has no clue what she is writing about. Lethal Lies is slow in the build-up of the suspense and, in fact, I believe that suspense-wise this is actually her weakest book to date for MIRA, but the characters are well-written and compelling enough to keep me reading to the end.
Faith Pelletier returns to Serenity, Maine, to take care of her cousin Chelsea Logan's fifteen-year old daughter Jessie. Chelsea was a recovering alcoholic who was starting to get her life back on track when she perished in what seems like a suicide attempt when Chelsea drove her car into the river. When Faith comes home, she meets Ty Savage, the man who once broke Faith's heart when he slept with Chelsea, and realizes that she still have feelings for the current police chief of Serenity. The suspense plot arises when Faith realizes that Chelsea was murdered and sets out with Ty to track down the truth.
I know, I know, this sounds like every other romantic suspense book out there. Hey, I never said that this book has an original storyline! However, I like how Ms Breton tries to make her characters come off as human beings instead of just Characters With Torments. Faith has issues - she lost her husband to cancer and she was unable to write her mystery books so she is currently in danger of missing her deadline, among other things - and so does Ty, as he has to deal with a father who is showing signs of being stricken with Alzheimer's and troubles can crop up in Serenity when he least expects them to. However, these characters never let their issues run their lives. They are mature and intelligent. They talk to each other and are willing to listen. Faith and Ty can be called a lot of things, but "dumb hicks" won't be one of them. The town of Serenity is also vividly drawn to the point that I can actually feel that the town is slowly dying the way the author wants me to view Serenity as. The job opportunities are nearly non-existent as all the factories that used to be the lifeblood of the town are closed down and social unrests are on the rise thanks to racists and drug dealers.
However, Lethal Lies, while set-up wonderfully, is a let-down towards the end when the author seems to put aside all that is interesting about her characters and set-up to push forth some conventional suspense plot elements that don't do the book any service. I especially adore the villain who helpfully explains everything of this fellow's plotting and schemes to the main characters. I often wonder why authors can't let her characters (and the reader) know of the details of the villain's plot in a more credible manner, say, Ty explaining things to Faith after the cops have arrested and interrogated the villain, for example. The answer to this perplexing overreliance of romantic suspense authors on tell-all-machinas like the Babbling Villain and the Magic Journal That Tells You Everything will not be found in Lethal Lies, unfortunately.
There are also some subplots in this book that are left dangling without closure by the last page of the book. Maybe they will be resolved in the author's next book, also set in Serenity, or maybe they won't, I don't know. While I personally don't find this a problem, readers who prefer to have complete closure in their stories may want to take note of this.
Lethal Lies is an enjoyable romantic suspense featuring characters who are smart and reasonable enough to actually root for. Because the set-up and the build-up are so satisfying, perhaps my expectations are raised too high, because the book peters out towards disappointing conventionality towards the end. Fans of likable characters with issues who become friends and fall in love all over again may want to give this book a second look when they come across it at the bookstore or library.
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