Sunday, February 08, 2009

Seeing Red - Susan Crandall

Seeing Red
Susan Crandall
Grand Central/Forever

Romantic Suspense

Sixteen years ago, when Ellis Greene was thirteen, her adored cousin Laura was brutally attacked, beaten, and left for dead. She never regained consciousness, and died after four years. The immediate prime suspect was Nate Vance, Laura’s boyfriend at the time. Ellis, however, was sleeping over with Laura when the older girl was taken from her home. She managed to catch a glimpse of the man, and it clearly wasn’t Nate. In face, Ellis’ eyewitness testimony made it possible to convict Hollis Alexander for the crime.

Life moved on, and Ellis grew up and became an elementary school teacher. She won’t go out after dark, and lives in a gated community behind locks and alarm systems. And she teaches young girls self-defense moves so they’ll be able to fight back in case of trouble. Then the unthinkable happens. Hollis Alexander is granted parole. The family had appeared at each of his previous hearings and told their story in order to keep him behind bars. This time, they weren’t notified.

Hollis Alexander on parole, living in a halfway house. And he has very serious plans for those people he claims wrongly convicted him. He starts with reporter Wayne Carr, convincing him to write a series of articles, pointing the finger back at Nate. What no one knows is that Nate is back in town. It’s only sheer luck that brings Nate and Ellis back together. When a young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Laura is murdered in much the same way, Carr alludes to the fact that Nate is back after a long absence. Nate and Ellis work together to try to catch Hollis. And Ellis has to remind herself that she has no idea what kind of man Nate has become in the intervening years.

While the author attempts to create doubt about Nate’s past and present activities, it’s not too successful, given Ellis’ view of him, then and now. I will admit, though, that his referring to Ellis as “pure,” more than once, is a bit creepy. Ellis’ family doesn’t share her view, and they and her recently-ex-boyfriend try to warn her off him. Hollis Alexander is a seriously scary character, making his machinations that much more believable. There’s a lot going on in this novel, with townspeople and various family members, and the author effortlessly keeps all the balls in the air until the conclusion.

There are some very interesting and surprising twists included; always a very big plus. Really, this novel could be read as ‘suspense with romantic elements’ just as well as ‘romantic suspense.’ To me, the romance portion was a foregone conclusion. The suspense plot was crafted very well and kept my interest right up until the end. The writing, as always from Ms. Crandall (PITCH BLACK) is excellent. I look forward to her future novels.

Rating: 7 ½
February 2009
ISBN# 0-446-17857-8 (paperback)


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