Dear Ms. Maxfield:
I think I need to read more romantic suspense and/or more romantic murder mysteries. If they’re all as good as this, I’m missing out on some good stuff. Then again, I’m not sure how to write this review without giving everything away. But here goes.
This is a short book: 150 pages. But you pack so much into it without making it seem as if you’re missing anything. Max is an artist, a brilliant artist who makes a lot of money off his art. But he’s…fragile, in the way so many artists (apparently) are. Maybe this is why he likes to paint strength, particularly the bodies of ballerinas. His 16 year old muse, Elena, turns up missing, though, and then turns up dead. And he’s the only suspect.
I love Max’s inexorable forced march through the justice system, and his acceptance that justice is doing its work, however misguided that work is. His acceptance is part and parcel of his own search for the underlying strength in things: the strength behind the beauty of a ballerina’s body, his own unacknowledged strength in surviving his childhood, his own search for a future he can understand.
Sumner is a police artist sent to draw a possible suspect that Max saw Elena with. But he’s really sent to try to establish a relationship with Max, to perhaps break down Max’s barriers so he’ll talk. He’s had a crush on Max, the famous artist, for a long time, and is happy to get to know Max better, and becomes Max’s rock during the events that unfold. Sumner is great: flawed and young and both sure and unsure of his feelings for a man he has only known for a few days who is suspected of murder and you don’t shy away from any of the implications of his uncertainty.
I guessed who the real murderer was pretty quickly, but I adored seeing how the plot unfolded, how all would be revealed, how all the characters would react. The big reveal seems a little derivative of some other romantic suspense I’ve read, but perhaps there are only so many ways that things can happen, especially in a short book with a small cast.
I still loved the plot and enjoyed watching it unfold, because you have a gift for creating unique characters. Max, Sumner, the police lieutenant, and the other characters all had wonderfully distinct personalities, and it was the process of watching them interact that made the book so worth reading.
Just a small niggle, but I know for some it’ll be pretty large: the editing purely sucked. Twice (that I noticed) there were very bad misplacements of names. At the very end, there’s a substitution of the villain’s name for one of the heroes, and somewhere else, the heroes get mixed up. There are smaller issues, but those are the big ones and in a good book, these issues just make me cringe.
So, readers, if you want a quick, edge-of-your-seat story, with great characters, but very few surprises, this story should be high on your TBR. I loved it, despite the lack of plot originality. I read romances, after all. It’s all about the characters.