There's a reason why Brandilyn Collins's books repeatedly top the "best of" lists year after year; in fact there are many reasons. Collins not only knows how to write very well; she also knows how to write suspenseful page-turners very well. If you can read a Collins book without becoming immersed in the story --- without clearly visualizing the setting and almost directly feeling the action --- you should probably move on to another genre. Suspense is simply not your thing.
DARK PURSUIT is yet another of the author's successful suspense novels --- though this one is something of a surprising success. The book opens with two parallel stories: one about the efforts of an elderly, bestselling author to regain his footing after a car crash left him unable to write, and the second about a young woman who fears that the serial killer who has terrorized the women in her town is in fact her perfect boyfriend --- a police officer and the son of the town's police chief.
Kaitlan Sering also fears for her own life now that Craig Barlow is aware of her suspicions, and so she turns for help to her estranged grandfather, Darell Brooke, the bestselling author who rediscovers his bearings as a writer in his granddaughter's dilemma. Excerpts from Brooke's current manuscript appear throughout Collins's book, offering background and motive and even more suspense.
It's to Collins's credit as a writer that DARK PURSUIT works as well as it does. Unlike so many of her previous books, this one required a major suspension of disbelief; I found myself questioning the actions of the three major characters already mentioned as well as Brooke's housekeeper, Margaret, and Craig's father. I couldn't imagine a young woman like Kaitlan making some of the decisions she made, nor could I fathom Margaret's subservient relationship to the domineering and unlikable Brooke.
So how does Collins do it? How does she manage to build suspense when the premise is dubious and the characters aren't exactly believable? I have no idea. What I do know is that despite those flaws, which are so uncharacteristic of Collins, I kept turning the pages and reading and wondering what on earth was going to happen. In the end, DARK PURSUIT proved to be a truly satisfying read, complete with Collins's signature twist.
As always, Collins displays her strengths as a writer throughout the book but especially in Darell Brooke's manuscript excerpts. She does a masterful job of adopting a different writer's voice without disrupting the flow of the novel. The excerpts enhance rather than detract from the main story. The expert pacing of the entire book, in fact, adds to the suspense.
Collins's fans will likely love this book, as will suspense readers who, like me, can ignore the illogical scenarios and choose to settle in for an enjoyable afternoon with a good novel --- or an enjoyable evening, if you can handle reading a Brandilyn Collins book after the sun has set and there's evil afoot.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 18, 2008