Saturday, December 3, 2011


By Sandra Brown
New York, Grand Central, 2011
472 pages     Fiction

Sandra Brown has written over 60 novels, romances, mysteries, and thrillers. The Denver Post calls Lethal, her latest book “romantic suspense.” They also say that it is a “Hitchcockian thriller that reads like a bullet.” 

Honor Gillette and her young daughter Emily have been living a quiet life in the country near Tambour, Louisiana. Her husband, Eddie, a police officer, was killed in a car accident two years before. Honor and Emily’s lives are shattered when they meet up with Lee Coburn, a deeply undercover FBI agent. Accused of killing 7 people in a warehouse massacre, he is on the run, and Honor and Emily become his unwilling accomplices. Coburn is trying to find “The Bookkeeper” who orchestrated the massacre, and Honor is trying to figure out how to protect the reputation of her husband, whose car accident may not have been accidental. 

Lethal is suspense writing at its very best. The set-up is chilling; the collateral damage is spectacular, and the plot deceptive and clever.  The characters are all believable with Coburn and Honor being the most developed. The tension between them is palpable, but the romance takes a back seat to the pressure of the plot. Just when you think you have something figured out, Brown throws a curve ball or a cliff-hanger, and the reader is left gasping. Nothing is as it seems.

My favorite spot in a mystery or suspense novel is when you can’t stop reading; whether it is 10 in the morning or midnight. I reached that point in Lethal last evening about 11:30. I forced myself to go to sleep only to toss and turn all night. When I got up this morning, I said to my husband that I couldn’t do anything else until I finished this book. Early in my reading this morning, I figured out who the Bookkeeper was, but I still had to wade through several more murders and plot twists until my suspicions are confirmed. AHA, I thought, I knew it all along, but truthfully, I wasn’t sure. Don’t you just love books like that!

I particularly like the character development of Coburn and Honor. Frequently in mysteries or suspense novels, character development gets lost in plot development, and we end up knowing very little about the characters. In Lethal, we actually get to see the characters change and make decisions based on emotional growth rather than the machinations of the plot developer. Kudos to Brown for that.

It is amazing and fun to see the role that cell phones play in the plot. They are crucial to the outcome of the novel. In her blog, Brown mentions the difficulties she had in using cell phones as plot devices—the technology was changing faster than she could write. She says, “. . .just when I think I’ve got it figured out, someone on “CSI” or “Castle” says something about the bad guy’s “burner” and I’ve got to go look that up.  (For you equally untutored, a burner is a disposable phone that can be bought at several outlets, including your local supermarket.  In my store, the display is between produce and paper products.  And, yes, I bought one for “research” — and felt like a drug dealer.)  There was a time when a cell phone couldn’t be tracked unless it was turned on.  Which seems like the good old days, except that it was only about a month ago.  Now, my phone guru tells me that “If I have the phone number, even if the phone is turned off, so long as there’s a battery in it, I can track it, tap into it, and gain total access.”  If he weren’t such a good guy, I’d be very worried.  The point is, the technology is there for your cell phone – your life – to be an open book  (No pun intended.)  It’s scary… And it’s HELL on a fiction writer.” 

It is with some chagrin that I have to mention that it is been a very long time since I have read a Sandra Brown novel…several years as a matter of fact. I used to only read mysteries and suspense novels; there was even a time that I only read English parlor murder mysteries. I had to teach myself to read literary fiction. It was great fun to return to this genre. I have three more mysteries on my “to read” shelf. I will have to force myself to move on to the other genres.

 I want to thank the publicists for sending Lethal to me. I will pass it on to my sister, who loves suspense novels.
 Here is the review in the Denver Post:
Sandra Brown’s very colorful website:

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