Brandilyn Collins kicks off her Kanner Lake series with VIOLET DAWN, the story of a woman with a secret past who stumbles into a murder.
Paige Williams, the story's protagonist, is 25 years old and a newcomer to Kanner Lake (a fictional small town in the Idaho Panhandle). Orphaned and alone, Paige longs for roots and a family. Her past is full of darkness, and she has made a dangerous enemy. Kanner Lake seems like a good place to hide and to start over. But by the end of the first chapter, we find that she's already in hot water --- literally. As she takes a late night dip in her hot tub, she bumps into a corpse. And Paige knows she's in trouble. (For those readers who think I'm giving away the plot here, this information is on the back jacket). Fearful that she will be accused, Paige makes a series of bad decisions. As the investigation escalates, she's the main suspect.
As most authors do in their first installments of a series, Collins spends some alternating chapters introducing us to other residents of her fictional small town. Presumably, they will play bigger roles in upcoming books. Chief police officer Vince Edwards and his wife Nancy are mourning the death of their son, Tim, and their marriage is rapidly deteriorating because of it. (Vince's grief over his son might have been more powerful if it was more subtle instead of sprinkled so heavily throughout the story.) Frank West is a young officer trying to look competent and professional. Although Paige is the main suspect in the murder case, he can't help but feel a flicker of attraction for her. Leslie Brymes is a small-town newspaper reporter looking for her first big break. She sees the murder --- and the ensuing mayhem it causes in the national press --- as her ticket to bigger and better things.
Bailey Truitt runs the colorful Java Joint, a coffee shop hangout for a rag-tag group of locals. Since her husband John's head injury and disability, money has been tight, so she blogs about the town, hoping to bring in more business. Bailey's shop is peopled with interesting regulars, from S-Man (a sci-fi writer who lives in his own fictional world called Sauria) to the kind pastor Hank Detcher. At the Simple Pleasures boutique nearby, the goodhearted Sarah Wray wonders and worries about her new employee, Paige.
In other chapters, the reader meets a young, abused girl with serious problems who comes to adulthood as the book unfolds. Most readers will figure out which Kanner Lake character this young girl will become before too many pages are turned.
Collins includes some nice crime details for her suspense readers. In one scene, as the murder victim's housekeeper is interviewed by Vince, we read, "he watched her body language, her eye movements, for any sign of deception….lying eyes tended to pull toward the dominant side. Francesca was clearly right-handed, but a number of times she glanced left when thinking."
Some descriptions of scenes become overly long (especially when Paige disposes of the body) and a few are odd ("An oily ball of wax rolled through her stomach."). However, these are minor points for most suspense readers. Those who enjoyed Collins's other suspense novels will be eager to see what she is up to in this new series.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on August 15, 2006