Well, since the weather was still extremely hot after I finished the previous novel I reviewed, I needed another “easy reading” thriller novel that I could enjoy in this dreadful weather.
Luckily, a week or so earlier, I’d been looking online for second-hand books when I happened to notice that Tess Gerritsen had written several stand-alone thriller novels before she started her famous “Rizzoli And Isles” detective series. Intrigued, I bought a copy of Gerritsen’s 1996 novel “Keeper Of The Bride” (which, surprisingly, was actually cheaper when bought as part of an omnibus).
So, with the weather being what it was and the novel being both a thriller and a short novel, it seemed like the perfect time to take a look at it 🙂
Needless to say, this review may contain some mild SPOILERS.
The novel begins in a church in Portland, Maine. Nina Cormier is hiding in one of the back rooms, stricken by disbelief at the fact that her fiancee – Robert Bledsoe – has called off their wedding at the last minute, leaving her there with lots of gifts to return and lots of money wasted on a wedding dress. After sending her sister away, Nina eventually meets the priest and asks him to give her a lift home. They sit in the car outside the church, whilst he tries to give her a reassuring talk about how unexpected things happen and that fate can be a mysterious thing. Then, the church explodes.
Meanwhile, local bomb squad detective Sam Navarro is getting an angry lecture from the D.A. about the death of a rookie cop in a warehouse blast sometime earlier. Luckily for Sam, the chief has his back and is able to get the D.A. to back off for a while. However, none of the bomb squad have any real leads on the latest spate of bombings, other than physical evidence that suggests that the culprit may be a copy-cat attacker who is following in the footsteps of a recently-deceased bomb-maker called Vincent Spectre. Then, a few minutes later, Sam gets a call about the church.
When he arrives there, he questions Nina and examines the crime scene. None of it makes any sense, the previous attacks having all taken place in warehouses and places like that. Sometime later, Nina is run off of the road by another car and survives the crash with only minor injuries. When Sam hears about it, he rushes to the scene and discovers a bullet hole in the car window. Someone is trying to kill Nina and it is up to him to catch them before they do…
One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is a really enjoyable suspense thriller, with fairly good detective and romance elements too 🙂 Yes, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything like that, but if you want a fun, relaxing “feel good” thriller novel that is vaguely reminscent of TV shows like “NCIS” or a slightly more “realistic” mid-budget version of the movie “Speed“, then this one is definitely worth a read 🙂
I should probably start by talking about the novel’s thriller elements. Although there are a couple of brief car chases, this is much more of a traditional suspense thriller than an action-thriller novel, and it works really well 🙂 The plot moves at a decent pace, with the constant threat of an unseen killer lurking in the background, some mysterious criminal intrigue, several perilous situations and a nail-biting time limit or two. All of this stuff works fairly well and ensures that there aren’t really any boring moments here. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the novel’s focus on bomb defusal and a game of cat-and-mouse between a detective and a criminal also reminded me a little bit of the movie “Speed”, which is never a bad thing 🙂
In terms of the novel’s detective elements, they’re also fairly good – although they take a slight back seat to the story’s thriller and drama elements. Sam interviews people, examines crime scenes, makes deductions from physical evidence and also comes up with theories occasionally. All of this stuff feels fairly realistic, in a “police procedural” kind of way, and helps to add a bit of extra intrigue to the story. But, as mentioned earlier, this is more of a thriller than a traditional “whodunnit” – with, for example, the criminal’s identity being revealed about two-thirds of the way through the novel and the emphasis shifting to trying to stop him before he sets off another bomb.
The novel’s romance elements are also really well-handled too 🙂 Initially, Sam and Nina are reluctant to get too close to each other because they have both recently been through failed relationships. Likewise, much to Nina’s consternation, Sam is also torn between his duty as a policeman and his feelings for Nina – which he wants to spare because he knows from experience that relationships forged in the middle of cases rarely last long afterwards.
Not only does this add a lot of extra drama to the story, but it also means that the few steamy trysts that the couple share feel a lot more passionate and impulsive because they both know that they will regret it the next morning. All of this stuff helps to add a bit more intensity and realism to the novel’s romance elements and prevents it from feeling too much like a “traditional” romance, whilst also still allowing it to fit easily into the genre too.
In terms of the characters, they’re fairly good. Both Sam and Nina come across as fairly realistic and “good” people, who are filled with conflicting emotions and enough flaws to make the reader care about what happens to them. Both also get a reasonable amount of characterisation and backstory too. Although many of the background characters feel very slightly stylised, this actually works quite well – since it gives the novel a vaguely movie/TV like atmosphere. Likewise, although the novel’s main villain can be a little bit cartoonishly evil, this is handled in a wonderfully dramatic way that wouldn’t look out of place in a mid-budget 1990s movie 🙂
As for the writing, it is really good. The novel’s third-person narration is written in a mildly informal and “matter of fact” way that not only helps the story to move at a decent pace, but also helps to add a slightly stylised “police procedural”/mid-budget film atmosphere to the story too 🙂 Reading this novel feels like relaxing in front of the telly and watching a random detective show 🙂
In terms of length and pacing, this novel is superb 🙂 At a gloriously efficient 251 pages in length, there isn’t a single wasted page here and this is one of those satisfyingly short novels that can be enjoyed in just a few hours 🙂 Likewise, the pacing is really good too – with lots of dramatic events, intriguing mystery/uncertainty and suspenseful moments that mean that the story never really slows down too much or gets boring. Although you shouldn’t expect an ultra-fast novel, this one certainly moves at a fairly decent speed 🙂
As for how well this twenty-four year old novel has aged, it has aged really well 🙂 For the most part, it pretty much feels like a modern novel – with only a few tell-tale details (like car phones instead of mobile phones) and the vaguely “Speed”-like atmosphere cluing the reader in to the fact that this is a novel from the mid-1990s 🙂 But, even so, this is a pretty “timeless” novel 🙂
All in all, this is a really fun suspense thriller novel that is perfect for when you just want to relax with a compelling “feel good” novel 🙂 With a good combination of suspense, crime, thrills and romance, this is a novel that never gets boring and manages to be both nostalgically “1990s” whilst also being timeless enough to feel modern. Yes, it doesn’t do anything too new, but if you enjoy TV shows like “NCIS” or movies like “Speed”, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel 🙂
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least a four.