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==Synopsis of the book:==
Nickie Callahan is at a crossroads in her life. Although only in her late twenties she has been advised by her agent that her career as a model is as good as finished. With no plans other than she would like to become a writer she gets a call from her old school friend Mimi. She has recently divorced her second husband and also inherited a large house in their original home town of Knolls in Tennessee. She invites Nickie to get away from life in New York and return home. This sounds very exciting and Nickie readily agrees with an idea that she could return and go to college and get the qualifications and skills she feels she needs to embark on this new career.
Nickie is very pleased and excited to be returning home and as luck would have it she is in time to start immediately at Houghton College. She has missed this small town, her old friends and its old Southern charm. However this new paradise is soon shattered as a rapist has struck twice in quick succession leaving all the Towns people afraid. Now for the first time in living memory doors are being locked and windows securely fastened at night. The two incidents have one connection that really worries Nickie, the involved the College she is now studying at. So while studying she and all the other female students need to be on guard to ensure this evil man does not strike again.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought on balance this was quite a good suspense thriller. It was certainly full of suspense as Nickie and her friend Barbara try and work out who is at the source of this evil. As a story it was simple but effective, there was nothing earth scattering or new about the ideas and it was presented in a way that made in easy to read and interesting. However and similar to other stories from this author I thought the story could have been expanded and in so doing bring a little more depth and creditability into that story.
Charlaine Harris has become a very successful international author. So far she has written 31fictional novels. The book I am reviewing here was her second novel and was first published in 1984. This author success has been on the back of her Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Series. These have been successfully transferred to television in the 'True Blood' series. So when I found this early example of her work I was keen to read it and see how it compared with the other stories I have enjoyed.
The first thing that struck me when I purchased this book was it was a re-print. This was obvious because in two places on the cover are their references to the Sookie Stackhouse stories which are all written much later in her writing career. I do not have a problem with a publisher doing this, however I do have a problem with the rear cover of the book. That is because instead of having compliments about the book I am about to read they had four compliments from various organisations praising the Vampire series again. I do not see the point or the value of doing this as this book is a stand alone novel and has nothing to do with the other series of stories.
Despite this I flicked the book over and had a look at the summary on the inside cover. This was an excellent size and really captured my imagination. I really liked the concept of this former model returning home to start hopefully a new career. But added to this was this new evil in town in the shape of rape. I thought this would be interesting and I was keen to see what Nickie Callahan involvement in this mystery would be.
So when I came to reading this story I did not really know what to expect from this author. That is because I have read all the very successful Sookie Stackhouse stories and enjoyed them all. But I have read several of her other books from the various other series she has created and found them to be quite poor. As a result I had no idea what to expect but my expectations where not high on two counts first I have never heard anyone mention this book and secondly it was only her second novel she had written and I presumed like a fine wine so this author would have taken a while to learn her craft and become a good writer.
I found the story very easy to initially get into. I liked the idea Nickie was going home and after a successful if short career was having to start again. And while I did not completely empathise with her as she had never seemed to struggle to achieve what she had I did quite like her outlook on life. The idea of her moving in with her school best friend and meeting up with former friends seemed an interesting starting point.
As the story continued I was surprised by notably one twist it took. I will not say too much about it but I thought the author initially handled it quite well but then disappointed me with the way she treated it. The pace of the story was good and I was impressed with the amount of action there was in the story, although having read the Vampire ones I suppose I should have expected it. The good thing was I never had an idea what the author was planning next so I was generally impressed with the direction it took.
I had a real feeling the story was going somewhere. And with every chapter I felt we were closer to discovering who the rapist was. The story had an exciting conclusion, which I thought was well told and it certainly had me on tender hooks as I thought it was well thought out. Yes it could have been expanded but that I think would have taken some of the suspense from it.
For me the most disappointing feature of the book is the author's lack of feeling or apparent feeling for victims of rape. I think she displays a lack of understanding about the horrific effects this crime has on its victims and their families. I just think she shows a lack of compassion at times especially a while after the crime has taken place. It is like life just gets back to normal for the characters within the story and I am absolutely positive this is not the case and everyday following an ordeal like this is a real challenge and one it will take guts and a lot of courage to get through. For me this does not come through at all in the book and I think it is wrong and very misguided of the author.
And while most things in the story made sense and I enjoyed the way the crimes were investigated and the mystery dealt with, it was this lack of feeling that really bothered me. I know rape is an awful subject to deal with and in some ways the author was brave to do it, but having done it I thought she missed quite a few tricks but not dealing with the emotions of the characters in the story in enough depth and with enough understanding. I'm sure we cannot say it was different in 1984 when this book was written as I am sure even then the effects where considered to be very significant.
Nickie Callahan was the stories leading character. And while I feel I have little in common with this successful, attractive and clever lady, I did find her personality grew on me the further I got into the story. I liked her determination and admired the way she tried to resolve the issues that were affecting her. The only thing that did amaze me was this beautiful, quite well off and successful lady did not seem to have a string of admirers, that seemed odd to me. And while in some respects this was made up with her close friendship with Mimi, as I found there relationship warming.
I did struggle a bit with some of the other support characters in the story. I thought the author needed to describe their mannerisms in more detail as I kept finding I could not remember who was who. For me a better idea would have been to have a longer story including more of these details so that you the reader could deduce who the rapist was, as I always felt I did not have enough detail to make that call.
I am pleased I read this story because when I put aside the authors lack of compassion, I still do feel she wrote a very good and griping mystery. What particularly impressed me was the way the correct answers where achieved I thought the approach while simple was an excellent way to go about trying to solve this case. And while it was never a page turner I always felt involved in the story and needed to know the solution to it.
My copy of this book is in Hardback format and when I came to research this I was unable to find a paperback version, which will make it an expensive read unless you can pick it up second hand.
I think on balance I would recommend this as an well thought out mystery. The story had a good pace about it and I always felt despite a few setbacks the answers would be revealed. It was because of the subject matter quite gripping and one I wanted to be resolved. The biggest problem area the book had in my opinion was they way the author dealt with the subject of rape. I just did not feel she showed enough understanding, empathy or compassion in dealing with it and its effects on the person, and their friends and families.
Price: 12.11 Hardback version from Amazon
Publisher: Berkeley Crime
Year first Published: 1984
More about the author: www.charlaineharris.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name of both Ciao and Dooyoo
© CPTDANIELS July 2012.