A while back, Jules Belleno’s husband, Jason, died in the line of duty as a police officer. Since then, Jules has pretty much gone into seclusion, leaving home only when necessary, like once a week to buy groceries. Her life is basically one big routine, and the highlights of her day consist of her father’s morning visit and maintaining her blog, on which she posts general thoughts about life, as well as reviews of the books she reads. As the story opens, Jules writes a not-so-glowing review of a book by her favorite author, Patrick Reagan. In the review, she states, “Everything from the plot to the dialogue seemed to fall flat. I felt like grabbing the book by its jacket cover, shaking it and saying, ‘Don’t tell me it’s terrifying. Terrify me!”
In chapter two we meet Chris Downey, former partner of Jason Belleno. Chris receives a call from Jules’s father, who claims his daughter is missing. Because there is no evidence of foul play, Chris can’t officially do anything until she’s been gone for a couple of days. But this is Jules, his partner’s widow. He can’t help but consider it personal.
"The pacing of this book is excellent. Constant action and suspense, along with plenty of surprises and plot twists, make it a definite page turner that just might cause you to stay up long past your usual bedtime."
The following chapter opens with Jules waking up in a strange place. On the ceiling above her bed are her very own words, “Don’t tell me it’s terrifying. Terrify me!” What’s worse than discovering that she’s been abducted and brought to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere? Her abductor is not some random lunatic, but Patrick Reagan. The author she has admired for years has, for some reason, answered her plea for terror. The question is why. And more importantly, will she ever be able to escape?
Back home, Chris is convinced that something has happened to Jules and is determined to find her. As he does some digging, he uncovers more than just clues to Jules’s whereabouts. Chris discovers that there was more to Jason’s death than he thought. But how does it all tie into Jules’s disappearance?
MISERY LOVES COMPANY is fiction writing at its finest. Rene Gutteridge is skilled at not only crafting superb stories, but also delving into the psyches of her characters. As disturbed --- insane, even --- as Patrick Reagan appears to be, he has so many sympathetic qualities that readers find themselves empathizing with him on several occasions. Even though he could be described as a psychopath, the reasons why he has taken such drastic measures and the intense inner pain he has experienced that put him over the edge is enough to elicit compassion. This is something that’s difficult for even the most seasoned author to pull off.
And then there’s Jules, who is all the more endearing. The grief over losing her husband, her private fears, and a fierce desperation to cling to something bigger than herself is the driving force of this novel. Her husband had a faith in God that she could never relate to. Only now is she learning that God is the only one who can rescue her from the physical and mental terror she’s facing.
The pacing of this book is excellent. Constant action and suspense, along with plenty of surprises and plot twists, make it a definite page turner that just might cause you to stay up long past your usual bedtime. But no matter how tempting it is to race to the finish, my recommendation is to slow down and take time for some reflection and introspection. There are plenty of gems of wisdom embedded within this compelling plot, which might otherwise be easily missed.
Rene Gutteridge has once again proven herself as a master of suspense. And as far as psychological suspense novels go, MISERY LOVES COMPANY is one to add to your must-read list.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on September 19, 2013