16 December 2013


Synopsis: Dawson Scott is a well-respected journalist recently returned from Afghanistan. Haunted by everything he experienced, he's privately suffering from battle fatigue, which is a threat to every aspect of his life. But then he gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began forty years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson's career.

Soon, Dawson is covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of a pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI's Most Wanted list. As Dawson delves into the story, he finds himself developing feelings for Wesson's ex-wife, Amelia, and her two young sons. But when Amelia's nanny turns up dead, the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws...and discovers the startling secret behind their story.

First line: The first hail of bullets was fired from the house shortly after daybreak at six fifty-seven.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, 2013; 410 pages; bought at Wal-Mart.

My thoughts: This is a brand new hardback, for which I paid $18.20, plus tax. That's how much I love Sandra Brown's mystery/thrillers.

Dawson Scott is a reporter who's been covering the war in Afghanistan from as close to the front lines as he can get. He's renowned and respected in his field for his straight-to-the-heart stories. But he's come home a broken man who wakes up screaming from nightmares. He may not have actually fought in the war, but he's definitely suffering post traumatic stress. There's a new boss at work, and she wants him to go cover what he considers an idiotic fluff piece. But his godfather, a retired FBI agent, talks him into going to Atlanta to cover a murder trial. The man on trial has been accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her current lover, former marine Jeremy Wesson, in his kennel. Jeremy's body was never found, but a piece of his scalp was taken from the stomach of one of the dogs, so it's believed that he was eaten. This part I found a little out there. Even if the dogs did eat the body, surely there would still be something left, right? Too gross.

Dawson's godfather has particular interest in the trial because he spent the majority of his career trying to track down and capture Carl Wingert, the leader of a militant group, and his girlfriend, Flora Stimel. But Carl eludes him, leaving behind a vicious trail of murder and thieving. What isn't known to the public is that the notorious couple had a son – Jeremy Wesson.

Dawson isn't particularly excited about covering this trial, but it beats the assignment his boss has given him, so he blows her off and goes to Georgia. While sitting in the courtroom, thinking he should blow off this trial also, his attention is suddenly riveted when Wesson's ex-wife takes the witness stand.

Amelia just wants the trial to be over so she can try to create some semblance of a normal life for her two young sons. Jeremy has been dead for a year, and they were divorced before that, and she's done her grieving and wants to move on. When court breaks for the Labor Day weekend, she takes her sons and their nanny to her beach house. But she can't shake the feeling that someone is watching her. And then she meets Dawson. And then her nanny is murdered.

The plot remained unpredictable throughout, with an especially shocking twist towards the end that made me sit up and go “WHAT?!”. The attraction between Dawson and Amelia is there from their first meeting, but the buildup to anything actually happening between them is slow and realistic. Sandra Brown's characters are never cookie-cutter, and they all have their own distinct personalities and their own role to play, whether they are leading characters or secondary, including the children.

Sandra Brown never disappoints. 

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