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Published: Friday June 22, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday May 29, 2013 MYT 5:25:47 PM

Adding twists for the sake of having twists

There are twists added to enrich a story, and there are twists added – unfortunately – for the sake of having twists.

Lethal Author: Sandra Brown Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 465 pages

RECENTLY widowed mother, Honor Gillette, is not having a good day. After her daughter Emily tells her there is a sick man lying in her garden, Honor goes to his aid, only to discover he is Lee Coburn, suspected mass murderer on the run from the law.

Armed and dangerous, Coburn tells her to cooperate if she does not want her daughter harmed, and Honor soon finds herself caught up in a twisted scandal of secrets and lies involving her late husband Eddie and a merciless crime boss called the Bookkeeper.

Forced to constantly stay ahead of both law enforcement and vicious criminals, Honor, Coburn and Emily are forced to flee for their lives, fleeing into the Louisiana bayou and ultimately, to Washington DC. The key to this whole scandal is a secret passed to Honor from Eddie: the problem is, Honor has no memory of ever receiving it!

Such is the plot of Lethal, the latest thriller from #1 New York Times bestseller author Sandra Brown.

Despite starting strong and featuring a promising premise, Lethal unfortunately loses steam as its story progresses, resulting in a rather forgettable novel I did not particularly enjoy reading.

The book was at its most entertaining when character motivations were hidden, and Honor (and the readers!) had to guess who was on her side and who was out to get her.

Could she really trust Coburn, rumoured to have killed seven men? Was her husband Eddie really on the side of the law, or had he been a crooked cop the whole time? Were the police tasked with tracking her down really looking out for her best interests? And was anybody really what they seemed?

Once it became clear which characters were good and which were bad, however, the story became less interesting. Lethal turned into a by-the-numbers, run-of-the-mill thriller, indistinguishable from any of the dozens of the other books in the same genre out there.

Which was a shame, as Brown’s writing is good, and her pace commendable. The author excels at writing fast-paced, action scenes, with highlights of her novel being parts depicting the lengths the Bookkeeper went to in maintaining a life of crime.

My favourite part of Lethal was a particularly tragic scene where a secondary character discovers he had been a pawn in the Bookkeeper’s complex plots the whole time.

Its characters, admittedly, are quite interesting. I did find Coburn fascinating, a dark shell of a man forced to do terrible things against his will, and was quite impressed with Brown’s depiction of Honor as a resourceful, brave woman willing to risk it all for the sake of her daughter.

Brown’s secondary characters, however, are one-note mentions and rather clichéd. The heroine’s sassy friend. The merciless crime boss and his incompetent stooges. The heroine’s protective relative who doesn’t trust the hero. The well-meaning but inept law enforcer tasked to track the hero down.

Anyone who’s ever read or watched a thriller will be able to pick out these characters immediately, and it was incredibly easy to predict what would happen to each of them, greatly decreasing the novel’s suspense.

My least favourite character had to be Honor’s daughter, Emily, who I felt was more of a plot device than an actual character, placed into the novel just to complicate the plot.

Brown’s most interesting character, on the other hand, had to be Diego, a vicious killer employed by the Bookkeeper. A brutal man blessed (or cursed?) with a soft spot for the innocent, Diego’s attempts to protect a young prostitute despite the Bookkeeper’s orders are genuinely touching, and many times I wished the novel was about him instead of Honor and Coburn.

I was disappointed, therefore, that his appearances in Lethal are rather minor, and that his final fate feels rushed and rather out of character.

Additionally, I did not buy the romance between Coburn and Honor. Try as I might, I just could not see how anyone could fall in love in such a situation, and the chapters where the two interact lacked passion and intensity.

As the novel progressed, I wondered if Honor’s feelings for Coburn arose from genuine affection and not some warped kind of Stockholm Syndrome.

The final nail in this novel’s coffin for me was a twist towards the end, where the Bookkeeper’s true identity is revealed.

While the reveal may shock some, I personally saw it coming from the middle of the book onwards (using the assumption that a mystery character almost always turns out to be the character you least expect it to be), and thought it feels ludicrous. There are twists added to enrich a story, and there are twists added for the sake of having twists, and I personally feel the Bookkeeper’s identity is the second type.

Add a rather anticlimactic ending, and Brown’s novel unfortunately, fizzles.

Overall, I feel that Lethal is unengaging and rather disappointing. While her characters had the potential to be interesting, a predictable storyline and overdrawn twists unfortunately drag Brown’s novel down into mediocrity.

Tags / Keywords: Books, Lifestyle

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