Berkley Sensation, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19210-5
Romantic Suspense, 2003
Intelligent characters and a well-crafted mystery make Meg Chittenden’s More than You Know very interesting reading. When so many authors fumble in jumping onto the romantic suspense bandwagon (I wonder how they will fare on the chicklit bandwagon – romantic suspense is so last year, don’t you know), Meg Chittenden’s debut offering is like a pleasant whiff of scented perfume in a stinky environment. This lady seems to know her stuff, so she’s probably the real deal and not some follow-where-the-money-is sort.
FBI agent Nick Ciacia believes that he has a lead on the killer that did his father in, and this lead finds him trying to get into the good graces of Maddy Sloane, the wife of Bart whom Nick is keeping a close eye on. Maddy is charmed by Nick when they first met and bonded over their love of old movies (that movie Casablanca is Maddy’s favorite), but she is wary of charmers. Her own husband Bart was charming once upon a time, and now the man she had married and now on the verge of leaving has turned into a disagreeable fellow. Before the both of them can do anything, Bart disappears. As a result, Nick and Maddy are forced to work together to solve the mystery.
The mystery is pretty well-constructed in that it reads like a real mystery. Nick and Maddy have to really work their brain cells to study the clues and information they have worked hard to gather instead of relying on deus ex machina plot devices like Villains that Tell All While Appearing at the Second Last Chapter to Hold Everybody at Gunpoint. While Nick and Maddy know each other under false pretenses, Maddy isn’t stupid and she doesn’t fall for everything Nick tells her. Instead, she uses her own intellect to make deductions from what she observes. In short, she’s smart and that’s good.
The only downside of this book is that Maddy and Nick generate very little chemistry. I’m not complaining that the romance is not fully developed, it’s just that Maddy and Nick seems to merely like each other instead of being madly in love. Hence, the eventual declaration of love rings false. I like how their shared love for old movies form the basis of their attraction to each other, but I wish there’s even a hint of something more.
I have a feeling that fans that enjoy a well-written mystery will enjoy More than You Know more than fans looking for a story where the romance is the main focus and the mystery second. I enjoy the mystery and I like the main characters to enjoy this book despite my disappointment with the romance. At any rate, this book is one of the better romantic suspense books out there. If you like this sort of stories, there’s no harm taking a peek at this one.