by Ann Bruce, contemporary (2005)
Cerridwen Press, $6.49, ISBN 1-4199-0298-9
Detective Nick Markov is driving his drunk partner and buddy Ethan Murtagh back to Ethan's place where Ethan's displeased wife is surely waiting to give her husband a dressing down of epic proportions when oops, some person tries to commit suicide only to Fall Dead right on the roof of Nick's Pathfinder. Nick is certain that he spotted someone running away from the penthouse terrace of the apartment block so he believes that he has stumbled upon a murder rather than suicide.
The deceased is one Andrew Langan III and he was known to be very unhappy about his impending divorce before he died. Therefore, Nick finds himself interrogating Andrew's wife, Augusta Langan. Needless to say, he finds himself attracted to her so the poor man has to deal with the suspicions in his big head warring with his libido while trying to solve the case.
From Fall Dead, I can easily imagine that I will adore Ann Bruce's future books should she become more polished in her writing. While Augusta is set up to be a familiar tortured heroine, she is a realistically level-headed heroine with flaws as well as strengths that make her come off like a realistic character instead of merely a Superwoman or Victim stereotype. Nick is a more familiar standard sexy cop hero but I like the way Ms Bruce gets Nick all jealous and worked up without turning Nick into a complete twit who forgets his job in the heat of the moment. The characters in their own right are well-written and the chemistry between them is well-developed. Ms Bruce manages to balance romance and the external subplot without each one getting in the way of the other too much.
However, it won't take a reader who is familiar with the formula and clichés of the romantic suspense subgenre too much effort to see the villain coming from a mile away, from the villain's gender to this person's motivation. Of course the late Andrew has secrets and these secrets and his motivations for keeping these secrets will come as no surprise either. As a result, very little about the story development in Fall Dead comes as a surprise - the story is familiar, containing many often-used formulaic scenes and standard plot twists.
There are also some confusing point-of-view switches here and there because sometimes Ms Bruce will tell the story from one character's viewpoint but at the same time she adds in information about that particular scene that this character should not know about (such as another character's motivation and feeling, for example). I don't however find this a particularly big issue that gets in the way of my reading of this book.
Fall Dead is an unpolished work with plenty of rooms for improvement but I can see myself enjoying one of this author's future works tremendously. I'll just have to see how things will go for Ann Bruce from here onwards but I feel Fall Dead is a reasonable show of this author's potential. Hopefully, it's just a warm-up for some really good things that will come in the future.
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