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Laura Griffin

REVIEW:  Twisted by Laura Griffin (A Different Perspective)

REVIEW: Twisted by Laura Griffin (A Different Perspective)

Dear Ms. Griffin,

I’ve mentioned before that the reason I don’t read much romantic suspense is that usually one aspect or the other gets shortchanged and I end up disappointed. Your books, however, have usually been the exception. A few little things in them might niggle but I’ve come to expect that in order to include both romance and suspense, everybody cuts a few corners here and there. It comes with the territory. Unfortunately, here I find that both the romance and suspense departments suffer to the extent that despite being glued to the ending to see how the killer is caught, I still can’t recommend this book.

TwistedAllison Doyle is a rookie homicide detective on the small town San Marco Police Department. She’s not on their most recent case, that of a young woman brutally assaulted and murdered, but when FBI profiler Mark Wolfe appears and talks to the officers who are working the crime, she senses something big. Acting on a hunch, she tracks him down and gets the details. Wolfe feels certain that the woman’s estranged boyfriend isn’t the culprit and that the real killer is a man Wolfe has tracked and sought for over ten years. Given the past sequence of the man’s crimes, Wolfe knows that they’re racing against the clock to prevent another woman from dying. But first he has to get the SMPD to believe his theory and get on board the investigation. And then they have to track down a cold blooded killer poised to strike again.

I was looking forward to this book for a number of reasons. First, it’s by you and for the most part your books have worked for me where few in this category do. Second, from the back blurb I knew Allison would be the heroine and, though she was a secondary character in “Snapped,” she had impressed me in that book. By the end of this book, I was left wondering what I had ever seen in her and wishing that she doesn’t appear in any more. Allison annoyed the hell out of me.

But first let me talk about what I do like in “Twisted.” From the opening chapter, the menace of the killer is evident. He’s a bad SOB which you chillingly convey without being too graphic. I admit I’m squeamish about that and I don’t like detours through a serial killer’s head. Instead of that you present the highlights of the crimes and use the aftermath of how it’s affected those left behind to freeze my bone marrow. The investigation of the most recent murder hasn’t been perfect and this adds to the plausibility factor. Crime is everywhere and the SMPD is as swamped as most police departments these days. The forensic labs are also choked with tests to run and despite better lines of communication, similarities between cases in different jurisdictions might go unnoticed until too late. Mark Wolfe is also stretched too thin trying to handle all the various cases he’s dealing with some of which you sketch in with enough details to make that believable without derailing the focus on the main plot.

As the task force gets in gear, it’s fascinating to get a bird’s eye view of the nuts and bolts of trying to solve this crime. Officers toss about ideas, work up possible leads, follow those through, reach roadblocks, get dead ended and refocus to approach the case from different angles. It’s like watching a riveting flow chart in action knowing the result at stake is death. The cool things that the people at the Delphi Center can do are the icing on the cake for my forensic geek fandom. Seeing all the work that has to go into outthinking and legally tracking this killer shows the dedication of the people involved as well as their frustration at being so close and still not having all the pieces needed to solve the puzzle.

The final few chapters are suspenseful. You ratchet tension well and generally have me on the edge of my seat as the action roars to a climax. Some of the details of the investigation end up not playing a part in getting the killer but every book about solving crimes needs a few red herrings. Allison does end up face to face with death, which I expected, but the way she gets there doesn’t follow the path I thought it would. I am pleased about that and yet also disappointed because the path you use highlights the two issues that don’t work for me – namely Allison and Mark.

Allison’s the only woman in the homicide department – indeed one of only four women on the force – and as a rookie detective constantly feels the need to prove herself. I can understand that. Law enforcement still seems to be a male bastion and Allison has only taken part in one major investigation. She’s eager to earn her place, improve her skills and become a better officer. Though by the way she acts in this story, she’s got a long way to go and if she’s not more careful, she’ll never live to achieve all that. Allison starts the book by making a major mistake that could have got her killed. She knows this and it gnaws at her that she did it and that Mark saves her bacon. Does it seem to be a learning experience for her? Surprisingly not.

Allison pushes her way into two cases not assigned to her and, to her credit, she does prove that the chief suspect in the most recent case couldn’t have committed the crime and that another case from a year ago is actually linked to the killer Mark’s been after. That opens the door to Mark’s theory and gets a task force in place which Allison then becomes a part of – though in reality it seems that by default and for lack of numbers every homicide detective on the force is on it. Allison knows that this guy is bad, that he’s killed at least six women and that they’re fighting to find him in time so yes, I can see her continuing to push to solve the crime but as the book progresses, Allison makes mistake after mistake.

Okay, I accept that she’s learning but she’s got an expert – Mark – on hand telling her not to do certain things yet Allison just busts past his advice and, in some cases, his orders and keeps barreling along. Oh no, she isn’t going to let up, she isn’t going to stop and think “Hmmm, here’s a seasoned veteran telling me to hold up or not do something. Maybe I should listen to him.” Instead she makes more mistakes. What does she do after one of them? She tries to cover it up so that she won’t look bad and take crap from her fellow officers who will then – justifiably in my opinion – be worried about having her cover their backs. I agree that it could unravel her career but maybe, just maybe, her flipping career does need to unravel before she gets herself or someone else killed.

People rise to the level of their incompetence but due to Mark going along with her pleas, Allison floats above hers and this time, she comes damn close to dying while another woman actually does. Here’s intrepid Allison, following up on a lead after spotting a clue that will lead her to where the killer is and does she call in that little fact? No, she calls in a license plate but fails to mention, “Oh and by the way I am at this location where I think a man who’s raped and murdered over six women might be.” Luckily for her she manages to survive the shit storm that follows.

Allison ends up not wowing me with her police skills but how about the romance? Does it help make up for the deficiencies I feel are in the suspense side of the book? Nope, ‘fraid not. Mark has a failed marriage behind him due to his diligence for his job. And for most of this book, he stays in diligent character. At first Allison seems to just want release from the tension of the case and when she finally gets Mark into bed, I’d swear that her primary feeling is one of satisfaction that she won their battle of wills. It’s way past the halfway point of the book yet I haven’t gotten a sense that anything deeper than scratching an itch is going on. Then suddenly! Allison is showing inklings of hope in her eyes and – after they chase down and arrest a suspect – she pulls Mark aside to try to delve into his feelings and get all emo. I sat with book in hand and jaw hanging open in disbelief. With a suspected killer in an interrogation room, this is not the time to attempt to help Mark deal with his chronic stress and avoid Burnoutville. Mark thinks that he feels he’s in the Twilight Zone and I feel that I’m right there with him. WTF?!

But, hold on. It seems that Allison’s questions about when Mark last took a vacation and her worry about his mental health have finally broken through to him. He jacks up going to a mandatory FBI meeting and instead stays in Texas for another night of hot lovin’. Only it appears to be just that, hot lovin’ but not love. Or not that I can see. And as the story races to a conclusion and the aftermath, honestly I still don’t see love. Lust yes, lots of that but when Allison and Mark tearfully offer each other their “I love you’s” on the last page, it doesn’t move me at all nor do I believe in its staying power. Maybe if they make appearances in future books I can be convinced but for now, the only reason I believe they’re holding hands and getting all dewy eyed is because you tell me they are.

And that is why I reluctantly give one of your books a D grade. Allison ends up being mostly a fail while Mark tumbles off into romantic faildom after keeping his head above the suspense waterline. Without the parts of the investigation that I liked and the way you still managed to make me want to keep reading, it would be lower than that. You’ve written many other good books which I would recommend for newbies to try but this one isn’t one of them.

~Jayne

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What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29

What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29

Like my previous post, this is actually a retrospective list of what I had read the past couple of weeks:

Mistress Bride by Michelle Reid – A discussion of Reid’s books prompted me to pull out this favorite of mine.  I really like how Reid uses societal constraints to keep the protags apart. She did this in the Sheik’s Chosen Bride by having the loved wife of a prince of an Arab principality leave her husband because of infertility.  In Mistress Bride, the Arab Sheik is supposed to marry a nearby Arab heiress but has instead carried on a public affair with a wealthy Englishwoman.  The question of why the Sheik never asked Evie to marry him before she becomes pregnant is never satisfactorily answered.

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The Father of Her Child by Emma Darcy – Michael Timberlane is a famous Australian literary agent whose marriage fell apart when his flighty society wife starts flinging bits of wisdom from some Lauren Magee with whom she works.  When Lauren and Michael meet each other Michael has every intention of eeking out some revenge but after one night together, Michael realizes that his conclusions regarding Lauren were wrong and that they are meant to be together.  Their HEA is put in jeopardy when Lauren realizes Michael obfuscated his identity and by Lauren’s ex husband.  I liked that the two had to confront their own biases conclusions about each other that they formed from other’s hearsay and accusations.

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The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark – this was a decently written UF but it’s not got the romance that I like in a cross over book and because of that, I’m not compelled to read the second.  Much of the story is setup as well.  I’ll write a full review later this month.

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Too Proud to be Bought by Sharon Kendrick – very silly story.  Zara is a waitress who catches the eye of Russian Billionaire, Nikolai Komarov.  She resists his advances and thus places herself in the whore category in Nikolai’s eyes.  She would also be in the whore category if she accepted his advances.  No winning with Nikolai.  His own desire for her is blamed on her whorishness.  So Nikolai arranges for Zara to be his personal waitress when he travels. She also eventually falls into his bed, thus confirming her whorishness. Somehow she becomes a whore no longer, but I wasn’t sure at which point she crossed over that line for Nikolai.

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I realized I hadn’t read (or purchased) Thread of Fear and Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin. After reading those two, I went on to re-read Untraceable, Unspeakable, and Unforgivable. I generally agree with Jayne’s reviews here. It was because of Jayne’s reviews that I read these books. She isn’t a regular reader of romantic suspense and when Snapped came to my door, I finally broke down and read her. It was great and I had to buy her backlist titles. Thanks Jayne!

Cover Me by Catherine Mann – I bought this because I wanted to read more romantic suspense. This book had 23 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4 and 1/2 stars. The story features a heroine who lives in an off the grid community in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and a pararescue Army person. I probably won’t read another Mann story. Her writing style doesn’t appeal to me. She info dumps and overexplains all the time. At one point, late in the book, she has one pararescue guy say to the other while they are searching for explosives: “I think the explosive sniffing dogs have found something.” Plus, she was always violating the rules she had set up. I.e., no one who left the Islands could return yet when the heroine is taken off the Island, she doesn’t question that she’ll return at all. The off the grid community is comprised of about 150 people but they all have their own business and seemingly a lot of ready cash. What does an off the grid community need with cash and how do they get it if they are off the grid?  Ironically, the villain in this story does everything for the love of a woman which made me think of last week’s op ed post.

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In looking over my list of September book reviews, I realized that my historical reading was way, way down so I read three historicals:

One Night in London by Caroline Linden – The 1st half of the story was bit irritating because so much of the internal monologue was spent on the mental lusting between the characters. What made this so irritating, beyond the obvious, is that the hero had  been jilted by a woman that he professed to love. It wasn’t until about the midway point that he began to think about his feelings of loss and betrayal.   the 2nd half of the story however picked up quite a bit and I ended up liking the book much more than I thought it would.   Full review here.

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Whisper of Scandal by Nicola Cornick.   I’ve wanted to read Cornick ever since I talked to her editor Tara Parsons at RWA this summer.  I choose  Whisper of Scandal because it’s an adventure book that takes place, in part, in the North Pole.    The book had several three-star reviews at goodreads that read like 4 or 5 star reviews which I found baffling until I read the book.  Cornick is a smart writer  and she’s got great dialogue. The story was unusual but part of it wasn’t completely satisfying. I know I’ll read her again because her voice is good and her plots feature different types of characters.

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In the Arms of the Marquess by Katherine Ashe.   Much of the conflict in the story depends upon the hero’s willful misunderstandings of the actions of the heroine.  While the prose is lovely, the hero is one of those who thinks all women are jades and whores.  He seduces the heroine when she is purportedly engaged to another to prove to himself and to her that she’s just like every other woman he has bedded and who has wanted to bed him. My enjoyment of the prose wasn’t able to overcome my dislike of the way in which the angst was contrived.  Full review here

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The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin.  I liked the world and the characters but the denouement was a let down, much like I felt the denouement disappointed in Butterfly Swords.  Full review to come.

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Blood of the Demon by Rosalie Lario.   This is the first book I’ve read from the new publisher Entangled Press, and I liked it.  My  biggest problem was that the story felt short for a paranormal.  It’s around 74,000 words and there definitely was room for more development of the characters.  Full review here.

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Mark of the Sylph by Rosalie Lario.   This October release is the 2nd in the series and while it’s full of interesting and weighty ideas that are never fully explored.  Much of the story is spent on the 2 characters coming onto each other and resisting each other’s advances and ultimately falling in bed.   I really had to force myself to finish this one as I didn’t  feel like it advanced the world that was set up in the 1st book.  I’ll probably read one more in the series to see if this author is one to watch.  Full review to come.

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Fighting Fair by Anne Calhoun.  This is a self published short story that is under 15,000 words and deals with marriage in trouble.   Calhoun has a great voice and her characters feel modern and real.  Unfortunately, I felt that the length of the story was too short for the subject matter.   The story opens with the characters in couples’ therapy  which the husband doesn’t think that they need. One of the impediments to their relationship is the husband’s work and I felt that that was too easily resolved which allows the characters to fall to bed with each other.   I wasn’t convinced that their marriage troubles have been resolved and thus found the story unsatisfying. It’s more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” here, I think.

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