07 February 2015

Mean Streak

Synopsis from Goodreads: Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband, Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of "instant divorce," Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself held captive by a man whose violent past is so dark that he won't even tell her his name. She's determined to escape from him and willing to take any risks necessary to survive.

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can't turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law. Wrong becomes right at the hands of the man who strikes fear but also sparks passion.

As her husband's deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer from those who wish her dead – and from heartbreak.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Grand Central Publishing, 2014. .

How acquired: Bought.

First line: Emory hurt all over.

My thoughts: Emory drives from her home in Atlanta to a small town in North Carolina and spends the night in a motel, so she can run the next day on the trails in a national park. Early in the morning she's an hour into a long run over mountain terrain. And then suddenly stars explode in her head and she's out cold. When she wakes up, with a killer headache from a nasty head wound, she's in a small cabin with a formidable looking man who says he found her unconscious. He answers her questions tersely or not at all, and won't tell her anything about himself, including his name. He does tell her the fog outside is too heavy for him to risk driving her anywhere on the icy mountain roads, and he has no phone or close neighbors. He disables her cell phone and won't give her the password for his laptop, so she can't even contact her husband or her partners in her medical practice to let them know she's okay.

Meanwhile her husband, Jeff, is canoodling with his girlfriend, and when the girlfriend begins to express worry over the fact that Emory hasn't called him and hasn't been home yet, he says Emory is probably still mad at him after the argument they had the night before she left. Eventually he does also start to worry, calling around to see if anyone's heard from her, and then driving to North Carolina himself to report her missing and hassle the local police for not doing enough to look for her. And of course, being the spouse, he's a suspect. We also meet the deputies investigating Emory's disappearance, an FBI agent, and an assortment of other characters, both good and bad.

So how did Emory get her concussion? I was pretty sure throughout most of the book that I knew who conked her on the head, or who was behind her being conked on the head. Pretty sure, but never one hundred percent.

Lots of books in the romance and/or mystery/suspense genres feature a hero who is a “bad boy”. A dark horse. Mysterious. You know who the hero is as soon as he's introduced, and you know the hero is a good guy. You know that, whatever crimes he's been accused of or actions have been attributed to him, there will be a reasonable explanation, or extenuating circumstances, or a clearing up of a misunderstanding. So I went into this book expecting that. But this guy. I wanted to like him. Did like him. Wanted to fall for him, the way I fall for every Sandra Brown hero. But I was conflicted. Plagued by doubts. Trying to reconcile his good traits with his bad traits. It was an emotional see saw. And that's a testament to Sandra Brown's writing ability. To her characterization.

The plot was so layered I never knew where it was going. And when I thought I did, Ms. Brown threw me a curve ball. The characters are all distinctive, and her descriptions of the landscape or the surroundings always left a clear picture in my head.

I love this book. 

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