Series: Jami Alden Trilogy, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 448 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
How Far Would You Go?
There is nothing Megan Flynn wouldn't do for him, for the brother who raised her, for the man she knew was innocent of the heinous crime for which he was convicted. He lives in prison, a death sentence hanging over his head, she shares his hell.
So much lost, including the man she once loved, homicide detective Cole Williams. The memories of the night Cole coldly arrested her brother still plagued Megan's nightmares. So much sacrificed, including respect and her reputation. No one believed Sean innocent, no one but her. Even his lawyer thought he was guilty. Even, she was horrified to admit, Sean himself. He has no memory of the details of that night and in his darkest hours, he wonders if he could have done it.
But there is no way Megan will ever believe her big brother capable of luring a young woman to his home, raping her, torturing her, then butchering her like so much meat.
Though Sean's second appeal has been denied, Megan hasn't lost hope that justice will prevail. It's a shock when she goes to visit him that weekend and he informs her he's declining his right to any further appeals. Half mad with fear and wildly desperate to clear his name before they put him to death, Megan grasps at every straw she can to try to find any glimmer of evidence that will set him free.
That evidence may just come at the expense of another victim. A young woman, raped, tortured, and butchered. With so little time and no one else to turn to, Megan is forced to swallow what pride she has left. She needs to convince Cole that she's not just desperate and pitiable like everyone thinks, convince him that she has discovered a legitimate connection between two crimes three years apart. If she fails, her brother will die. If she succeeds, a vicious killer will make sure she does...unless the dark secrets she uncovers on the quest to her brother's absolution get her killed first.
I'm a big fan of the romantic suspense genre and Alden happily satisfied me with this one. Strong characters with genuine chemistry and a well-developed plot with a unique twist or two offered up a plethora of reading entertainment. I was ripped up by the deep emotions that defined Megan's life and provided a complex and layered emotional backdrop for the action. The desperation of a sister, the agony of betrayal from a lover, the chilling terror of a monster, the dawning horror of sociopathy, guilt, hope, devotion, all blending together to highlight and display character motivations and choices. All powering the struggles of the hopeful and the hopeless. It made for some compelling reading.
I loved the concept of the plot, of a sister frantic to save a brother condemned to die for a heinous crime she is convinced he didn't commit, despite the evidence. It offered a twist on the standard for psychological thrillers and provided the impetus for Megan's behavior and Cole's involvement. It also added nuances and conflict to their relationship that you don't often see in the genre.
That's not to say that I was thrilled with everything about the book. While I was impressed with the depth of emotion plumbed here, and was in love with the way the relationship plotline evolved between Cole and Megan throughout the book, I had some problems with Megan's character. She was so single-minded in her obsession to save Sean that some of her decisions and actions shoved her into a ridiculous amount danger and evidenced an utter disregard for her own safety. When she wasn't risking herself she was laying waste to the lives of the people around her without much forethought and with an appalling lack of guilt. She became Hurricane Megan at times, an unstoppable force and selfish for it.
I also think there was too much stress placed on her needs and wants for Sean. She couldn't lose him, he had to keep fighting for her, she couldn't go on without him. Sean's the one rotting away in jail but more than once I was given the impression that getting him out would be as much a benefit to her as it would to him. Even the appearance of that degree of self involvement was unflattering and unappealing.
On the flip side, and my personal favorite in the book, was Cole. I thought his past actions were reprehensible but understandable, and thought Alden did a particularly good job with his character definition and development. I loved how he showed such a deep understanding of Megan's nature and accepted it even as it made him nuts. I loved how he proved his dedication to her - albeit three years late - even though he still believed her brother guilty. Their relationship sizzled and smoked, and was rich with desire, but the backbone was concern and caring, then trust and dedication. I loved it.
The plot was solid, though certain elements of antagonist's backstory and plotline had some unexplained gaps and were a bit lacking in explanation. Not every issue raised in this book was resolved, either, but that's not a complaint so much as an observation. In fact, it laid potential groundwork for subsequent novels. There were one or two facets of this book that suffered from some problems of predictability, and there was little mystery surrounding the identity of the killer. He was pretty easy to pick out of a crowd. I loved the peek into his origins, though, and appreciate Alden's ability to make even a monster sympathetic at times.
I wasn't satisfied with the mysterious "they" that was referred to, or the story supporting that thread. It was introduced too late in the book for my taste and never felt fully developed or realized. I felt it served little purpose beyond muddying up the plot waters. I also would have preferred the connection between a psychopath and a sociopath be made a bit sooner in the book and had their relationship explained more thoroughly.
Despite those few things, I liked this book. No, Megan wasn't my favorite character and there were a few issues relating to the antagonist and the plot that gave me some problems, but overall this was a well crafted, emotionally powerful, refreshing addition to the genre of romantic suspense. I'm looking forward to the next in this series, Hide from Evil, which is expected to release in early November.