Saturday, June 1, 2013

When the Storm Breaks, Heather Lowell

Sigh. Where to begin. Well, as you can see, the title is a bit cheesy. It pretty much sets the tone of the whole book. Even the back is cheesy: "A serial killer has one obsession...HER."

The core plot is pretty decent, it the execution that fails miserably. It's set in Washington, DC. The main character, Clare, is at her friends dating service late one Friday night. Her friend, Afton, has nagged Clare into giving the method a shot. Clare leaves to catch the bus back to her Georgetown home, and stumbles across a murder.

She runs. The killer pursues. She manages to get enough of a head start and finds a club in Dupont Circle. It's in the basement of a building, and it's pouring rain, so she slips and falls on the steps, knocking herself out. Some club patrons find her and call 911. Among the patrons is a doctor, who takes care of her until the cops and EMTs get there. While they're waiting, Clare comes to enough to mumble and shout some things that, while fairly incoherent, give the doctor some idea that there might be a murder nearby. The cops investigate and find the body.

When Clare wakes up in the hospital, she can't remember much about the evening, just some vague impressions. One, is the killers "cruel smile." Two, that she'd seen him in photo recently. The cops end up thinking maybe he's another member of the dating service. So, she wouldn't know the killer if he was right in front of her, and he's out to get her.

So, see, not a bad concept. That's pretty much where it ends, though. The whole thing is just...affected, overdone, awkward, hammy, melodramatic, schmaltzy. Whatever word you want to use. There is actually a line that say they "made a storm on the banks of the Chesapeake." I'm mean rolling your eyes is really the only legitimate response. It's not quite "heaving bosoms" or "trembling members," but it's pretty close.

One of the few good things about this book is the description of the DC singles scene. Right from the beginning, Lowell zeros in on the idea that DC sucks if you want to find a serious relationship calling it "the casual partner-swapping of DC's singles scene."  Then later pointing out that "it's hard to find safe places to meet strangers in the city, especially if one isn't into smoky bars or teeny-bopper clubs." I can, and do, appreciate the assessment.

Clare and the head detective, Sean, obviously fall in love. The predictability just pretty much continues from there. Not that I mind them falling in love. It's the way it all plays out. The hunt through the dating service databases; Sean's jealousy as Clare goes out with the suspects; the stalking of the killer; the resistance between Clare and Sean, and then the decision to give in; Clare's vehement dismissal of seeing a therapist to help her deal with the trauma. Just on and on. One of the most irritating moment is after Sean and Clare have finally given in, and been discovered. Sean has been telling her the whole time that she's a witness and they can't get involved. Now, to be fair, he's pretty shitty at communicating, but he does tell her. Repeatedly. She either blows it off or decides he's giving her a line. They've been found out and Sean's boss rips him a new one. Suddenly she's all contrite, and "oh no! I didn't realize!" GAH! Stupid bitch didn't listen!!!

There's no real effort to give the characters any depth. Well, I should say no effort. But it's entirely superficial, just like the characters.

The only minor surprise is that Clare isn't rescued by Sean. Or anyone, really. She manages to take down the killer with a barbell to the face and a foot to the balls right before Sean and his partner bust in. Good for her. I wish the rest of the book had been enlightened.

Basically, don't bother. The writing needs help and the so does the story. This seems to be Lowell's first attempt, so I wouldn't count her out completely, but this isn't something I would recommend...or even really mention.

When the Storm Breaks, Heather Lowell

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