LOW PRESSURE, Sandra Brown’s latest novel, has something for everyone. This is not at all unusual for her work --- one does not acquire a track record of over 60 bestsellers by writing books aimed at a niche audience --- but this is one of those novels that anybody can walk away from with satisfaction, beginning with the first sentence and ending with the last paragraph.
Let’s start with that first sentence, which is found in the prologue. It introduces Bellamy Price, the book’s primary female interest, and puts her in sympathetic peril. Not major peril, mind you, but close enough to make readers feel sorry for her. Bellamy, as things are rapidly revealed, is the author of a real-world crime novel that is based on a family tragedy --- one involving her family --- that took place almost two decades previously. Bellamy’s sister, Susan Lyston, was murdered during the course of a tornado that took several lives. A man named Allen Strickland was tried and convicted of the crime and, in turn, was killed in prison.
"There is simply no good place to stop, as Brown’s penchant for frequent changes of scene and character keeps the narrative moving at a breakneck pace that will captivate readers.... LOW PRESSURE is both a classic and groundbreaking work of romantic suspense..."
No family truly recovers from this type of occurrence; indeed, as Bellamy commences a tour in support of her novel, Low Pressure, forces are converging that will increase the turbulence that never entirely dissipated. Bellamy herself originally wrote Low Pressure under a pseudonym in hopes of disguising her family’s story as the basis for the book’s premise. However, an investigative tabloid reporter quickly linked Bellamy’s story to the tragedy that occurred so long ago, and the resultant publicity has been a double-edged sword.
It has thrust Bellamy into the spotlight and, to her publisher’s understandable delight, made her novel a runaway bestseller. This all comes at a bad time, though. Bellamy’s father is dying from a terminal illness, and the reopening of the old story does the extended family little good. Furthermore, the new attention given to the murder has attracted Strickland’s brother, Ray, who feels that Strickland was innocent and that his death was the end result of a kangaroo court conviction. He may have a point; Dale Moody, the lead detective in the case, was never entirely comfortable with Ray’s prosecution and guilty verdict, while the lead district attorney at trial seemed to be more concerned with a victory than justice.
Then there is Dent. Denton Carter was Susan’s boyfriend at the time of her death and initially the lead suspect in her murder. Only an ironclad alibi saved him, yet he is still bitter over the initial rush to judgment, which was aided and abetted to some extent by the Lyston family. Dent now spends his days as a charter pilot and his nights skirting the edge of a hedonistic self-destruction. Coincidence throws him together with Bellamy, and events conspire to cause them to reopen the investigation into Susan’s death on their own. The resulting discoveries put both of them in danger, given that virtually everyone involved in Susan’s life --- and death --- had secrets to keep. Yet Bellamy and Dent find themselves slowly but inexorably attracted to each other as well, even as an all-but-invisible adversary moves against them, to keep the truth of what occurred some 18 years previously from being revealed.
Does this sound like a lot? It is, and all of it will keep you reading through at least one night, maybe two. There is simply no good place to stop, as Brown’s penchant for frequent changes of scene and character keeps the narrative moving at a breakneck pace that will captivate readers. Some elements are expected --- the attraction between Bellamy and Dent is a given --- but Brown can add some surprise twists even to stock characters and situations. LOW PRESSURE is both a classic and groundbreaking work of romantic suspense that also will satisfy readers who are not ordinarily attracted to the genre but who would be willing to widen their reading horizons.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 20, 2012