After I Dream
by Rachel Lee, contemporary (2000)
Warner, $6.50, ISBN 0-446-60654-5

Boy, sometimes I'm glad I'm not living in this author's stories. Her characters don't just have problems, they have cartloads and train carriages of them. If these are what count as "emotional intensity", these endless hand wringing and psychoanalyzing and neuroses running free, count me out. I'd stick to Dharma and Greg.

Watch out cowboys, the Navy SEAL population boom is catching up with you virile chappies! Chase Mattingly is a former Navy SEAL superhero suffering from neuroses that can give a male shrink his first multiple orgasm. He can't remember what happened in his last diving expedition that resulted in him being crippled, scarred, and mentally twisted. He now has nightmares and hallucinations of scary thingies about That Dive, and he is tempted to use the razorblades.

I can do better, his neighbor Calypso Carlson declares. Mommy died young, leaving her traumatized. Her daddy is a wastrel and negligent man who died in a boating accident. Now Cally has a fear of the sea. She clings too hard to her brother and gets mentally hysterical each time he goes out to sea. "The sea will kill you!" she keeps thinking. Oh, and she doesn't trust men too - remember how useless Daddy was? That's all men to you. Useless buggers, them all.

I'm not surprised when Cally turns out to be a shrink.

When Cally's brother and his friend are arrested for murder of a stranger, Chase and Cally band together to play Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew. Chase starts making the nasty at her, and Cally predictably shooes him away, and in the meantime, someone tries to kill everybody.

AID does have a nice thrilling suspense thread, as does all Ms Lee's suspense work, and it also suffers from too much trauma dealt with in a very dull and predictable manner. You know the sort - she screams at him to scram (all men are useless!), he acts patient, she screams even louder for him to get lost, he gets lost, she weeps in self pity, the usual. As much as I try to sympathize with Chase (quite a nice and patient man), Cally is exasperating because she's the typical Ally McBeal on antidepressants.

But I must say the depictions of the sea as both a cruel and kind deity is a nice touch. That, and the suspense, is what rescues AID from being a melodrama of whiners.

Rating: 71

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