The Suicide Club by Gayle Wilson
The Particulars: Romantic Suspense, Mira, 2007, Out of print but available as an ebook.
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I have an autographed copy, which means I picked this up at an RWA conference. Which one is the question. Given the publication year best guesses are either 2007 Dallas or 2008 San Francisco.
Review: I was a mystery and suspense reader long before I discovered the romance genre. So it's probably not all that surprising that when it comes to romantic suspense, my enjoyment of the story really tends to revolve around the suspense end of things. Normally I'm more than happy to let a weaker romantic storyline slide if the suspense is up to snuff. In the case of this book? Let's just say the suspense starts out on the weak side and by the time it picks up steam I found the "romance stuff" jarring.
Lindsey Sloan is in charge of the "gifted and talented" program at Randolph-Lowen High School in close-knit, everybody-up-in-your-damn-business, small town Arkansas. Still she's shocked when Former Big City Detective, Jace Nolan visits the school and suggests that one (or more) of her students might have been behind a rash of arsons that targeted black churches in the immediate area. Lindsey tells him he's full of crap, and essentially throws him out on his ear. But Jace isn't one to give up easily, and proceeds to make a nuisance of himself. Which proves to be a problem - since whoever is behind the crimes has noticed a cop sniffing around Lindsey. Ergo? Lindsey is now in danger.
This book never really got off the ground for me thanks to the set-up, which I couldn't buy into. Jace is going with his gut thinking it's a high school kid. He's backing up his gut with a profile the FBI worked up - which essentially says they were "thrill crimes" so most likely young, white, male with a few brain cells. Which leads to Jace meeting with Lindsey in the principal's office.
OK, you have arsonists targeting black churches, in the South (!!!) - and yet I'm supposed to believe FBI and/or ATF aren't crawling all over this backwater town? Really? I mean, really?!?! And given the flimsy "evidence" (which is to say, none - other than the FBI profile) that Jace has to work with, I'm supposed to believe that a High School Principal not only doesn't throw him out on his ass while citing various right-to-privacy concerns, but that he would take the time to pull a teacher into a meeting of this nature? I mean - right out of the gate? More likely the principal would tell cops to come back when they have, oooooooh, ANY evidence at all (you know, something that isn't just a half-baked hunch), then call a faculty staff meeting.
But hey, that's just me. I mean, I'm crazy enough to think the FBI and/or ATF should be there, so what do I know?
Lindsey is one of those Pollyannas who thinks there is good in everybody and all her students are perfect little angels that poop rainbows. You know who is more believable and less annoying? The guidance counselor - who enjoys helping kids and working with the students but also admits that some of them? Yeah, are shitheads. Why Shannon wasn't the romance heroine is anyone's guess. Her, I liked. Even if she does have suspicions about the bad guy and didn't cough them up immediately. At least with her you understand WHY she was holding back (she felt her "gut" wasn't enough to try and convict anyone without, you know, any proof whatsoever. Come to think of it, maybe she could grown a penis and been the cop hero instead?).
Anyhoodle, I kept reading along mostly because I had to see how the suspense thread turned out - and it does pick up some once the arsonists become bored and have to get their kicks some other way. However by this point? The romance gets to be a real problem. I'm not sure how else to explain it other than it's jarring. I was uncomfortable reading about mushy "love stuff" and romantic sex scenes given the content of the suspense thread. And in the end? After the whole thing comes to a full boil? To have Jace and Lindsey blissfully fall into each other's arms, declare their love, and then joke about having children together? When the climactic and devastating finish directly involves teenagers?
Yeah, too soon. Just.....way too soon.
So where does that leave me? Well, it had it's moments. Although the execution needed some help, the concept of the suspense thread worked for me and I wanted to see how it turned out. I just wasn't particularly moved by either of the main characters, therefore I wasn't particularly moved by the romance. But while it didn't inspire love in me, it also didn't inspire outright hate either. I didn't love it, but it also didn't make me Hulk-Rage-Angry. In other words, I'd read this author again but not necessarily rush out to recommend this particular book to a friend.
Final Grade = C-