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After reading one of Tess Gerritsen's books from her Rizzoli and Isles series, I was looking forward to another tense gore fest with Presumed Guilty. The front cover shows a bloody knife sticking through material, so really, I don't think you can blame me for expecting it to be gory. So I was a little disappointed with this one when it wasn't matching my expectation.
Presumed Guilty is a 2009 from Gerritsen, a well established crime writer. The story is set in a small town in America, called Shepherd's Island. Richard Tremain, the newspaper editor in the town has just been murdered, and the chief suspect is his former lover, Miranda. Only, the reader knows from the start that Miranda was on the beach at the time of the murder, so we are left wondering who has framed this innocent women.
Chase Tremain is Richard's estranged brother, who has been called back to town by his sister in law in this time of need. He begins to doubt that Miranda is to blame for the murder, especially when he witnesses someone trying to kill her. Together they set about untangling the mystery, but with a few red herrings and a small town mentality, it is proving very difficult, especially when there seems to be danger wherever they go and someone is always a bit ahead of them.
The plot in this is beatifully written. As well as the well established main characters, there is strong characterisation of every person who has any role in this novel. In some ways it is exactly like living in a small place, where everyone knows everyone elses business. Here I think the author has done a fantastic job at bringing to life the events happening in a way that has you really caring about these characters and what outcome will occur.
The lack of gore while initially disappointing to me was actually appropriate for the context of the book. There are no forensic speciallists in this town, only a caricature of a police officer who is not really on the ball and a grumpy small town doctor who is counting days to retirement. The bloody murder is about as much drama as the town can take, so when other incidents like a hit and run and an arson attack occur, you feel the way the characters are starting to become a bit overwhelmed with events.
There are strong hints early on in which way the author might take the investigation, but all my best attempts at amateur policing were wrong, and I was fooled by all the red herrings that were thrown a bit too neatly into the plot line. Twists and turns are plentiful especially once the pace of the story picks up.
I felt that while this is very different from her style in the Rizzoli and Isles novels, I really did find this an addictive read. The emotional side of the characters was well explored, and I wanted to find out what would happen to them next.
This is cleverly written, and it will have appeal to anyone who like crime novels, and it is a gentler introduction to Gerritsen's style of intelligent writing. It is another novel I highly recommend.
I read a review in this book recently and said I'd have to try it, despite the fact I'm not a great reader of romantic thrillers. Tess Gerritsen is also one of my favoured thriller writers and I didn't want to spoil that image. This book is one of a number that the author first wrote under the genre of romantic thrillers and re-released by Mira books. It was originally published in 1993 and unfortunately it is a bit dated. Still, the cover looked good and I found it in my library so I borrowed it and proceeded to read it.
Miranda Wood has been having an affair with her boss, Richard Tremain, but fed up with the deceit she breaks it off. When Richard tries to force a reconciliation she does exactly what women in these books do, she goes for a long walk on the beach leaving her house empty. On her return she finds the door open and a body in her bed, someone has stabbed Richard to death. Naturally she becomes the main suspect and is quickly taken into custody. The family is one of the Island's leading old families (the book is based on an island in Maine), and naturally the people want to see justice done, but Miranda knows her innocence will be hard to prove. After all, she is really an interloper, not of the right social class. When she is bailed out by an unknown benefactor she looks even guiltier and soon brushes up against Richard's good-looking brother, Chase, who wants to believe her guilty despite a growing attraction to her.
The rest of the book is spent trying to stop Miranda and Chase falling in love, which is nonsense, of course they will. There is something suspicious about the family itself and Richard (an editor) had been working on a very incriminating story that he suddenly dropped. Throw in a company who wants to develop some prime land and a few more of Richard's past conquests and there is just enough plot to make the book readable, though a bit contrived in places. Of course I could be biased, Romantic fiction is a genre I have grown out of especially with such characters that have 'Boy meets girl' written on their foreheads.
Gerritsen makes a good effort at writing decent characters but they are all just a little bit larger than life. Miranda is the innocent woman who couldn't help falling in love with her boss and then trying hard not to fall for her brother. Chase is suitably different and has his own secrets. The wife, Evelyn, is probably having an affair herself and looks an ideal suspect, as does every one of Richard's conquests, of which there are several in the same office. There is a welcome break with tradition in the form of an elderly woman who snoops around (a bit of a Miss Marples) but could also be a suspect; after all, her cottage is next to Richard's own isolated property. Other than this the characters are fairly predictable and only the person who performed the dirty deed is a bit of a surprise.
I wanted to enjoy this and I do realize I sound a bit harsh, after all, the author admits she developed a liking for romantic suspense while working as a junior doctor. I'm sure she got some much-needed relaxation in the form of light reading. This is one of eight novels in the genre and sows the seeds of the writer she turns out to become, a first-rate author of murder/mystery. In between the basic plot lies some nice writing with an early talent for description and dialogue. I just couldn't see past some manifestly obvious characters and situations. The 'found body' plot is not a new one and the lack of alibi is over-used. I got fed up of the two would-be lovers thinking the same thoughts, ' I mustn't fall for him/her' or 'I can't let myself trust him/her so soon.'
Eventually I allowed myself to look past that otherwise I wouldn't have finished reading it, which I achieved in two days through light reading. I did suspect the culprit but didn't guess the identity until the last part of the book, so full marks for that. From my own experience I know how hard it is to write something original. I haven't written a story for months now and have to discard a lot because it's an idea I've picked up from a book.
So overall I give this three stars since it's readable if you have nothing else on the go or you like the genre. A new reader would doubtless be enchanted, I just felt luke-warm and kept thinking about just how good this author can be.
My copy is a library one. The paperback can be bought for £3.81 new at Amazon with the Kindle version similar in price. There is a very good offer on all eight of the Mira books at £20, maybe a nice gift for a fan.
As always, thanks for reading.
©Lisa Fuller 2011.
'Page turner' is always an overused phrase these days, but there is no better way to describe this book. 'Presumed Guilty' is the fifth book of Gerritsen's released under the genre of Romantic Suspense, however 'Suspense' seriously undersells this book.
Set in a small hamlet in Maine, the book follows Miranda Wood on her quest to prove her innocence. Having returned home to find her ex-lover lying naked in a pool of blood there is only one suspect. Her task is made even harder with the fact that the victim is a high profile married man in this small town. With the odds stacked against her, Miranda sets out to discover the truth but stumbles upon far more than she ever intended on finding out. The book holds more twists than an Italian mountain road and if finding out who the true villain is doesn't keep you on the edge of the bed, there is the added incentive to know if Miranda will find love and happiness with the new man in town or does it just add to an already complicated life for her.
A very good read, which is of a satisfyingly different intensity of Gerritsen's recent work.