Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TBR Challenge 2013: Those Crazy Kids

The Book: 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-


Elizabeth said...

There was a rash of church arsons here in Alabama about 5 years ago and I don't remember anyone higher than the state police being involved. I can't remember if it was just black churches, or just rural churches, but I do know that it ended up being 3 white kids looking for some excitement. It was a pretty big deal and on the news a lot, but I don't remember it getting any national news attention.

Lynn Spencer said...

I love some good romantic suspense, but that one doesn't sound too great to me either. Re: churches - I think it varies across the South, but in Virginia, if someone even threatens to vandalize a black church, the local FBI field office in Richmond would be all over it, there would huge public outpourings, etc..

Amber said...

Ugh! Not the Pollyanna Heroine. :(

Also, I found something odd on a very quick Google search:

We have/had a National Church Arson Task Force. :(

Wendy said...

Elizabeth: After I wrote this review I pondered that maybe because the fires didn't involve bombs or crossing state lines - that's why no outside law enforcement. The fires themselves are discussed in very little detail though, so it's hard to say. What I did find bothersome though was how quickly they dismiss the "hate crime" idea. Thrill seekers or not, it seemed to me the fact that only black churches were targeted was dismissed rather out of hand.

But the whole point of the story is that once the heat (ha!) comes down with more police patrols etc., the thrill seekers need to find their kicks doing something else.

Seriously, what is wrong with people? Re: those Alabama arsonists.

Wendy said...

Lynn: And the fact that it was black churches being targeted is dismissed rather quickly. Once they get that profile of it being "smart kids looking for thrills" they totally dismiss the hate crime angle. Which just seemed - well, not right to me. If that were the case they'd be looking to burn down everything from 7-11s to barns - not just targeting churches with black congregations.

What really got me though was the ending. The suspense is so wrapped up around teenagers, and the ending is so devastating - to have the couple blissfully declare their love and talk about making babies together? Maybe it's just me, but I'd consider locking up my uterus and throwing away the key.....

Wendy said...

Amber: And even after she's threatened she still contends that none of her students could possibly do something so terrible! Ugh! The guidance counselor BFF felt more like a "real" educator to me. You have these kids so many hours of the day. You think you know what's going on with them - but you don't always. And yeah, a lot of them are great kids, but some of them are stupid jerkfaces who get on your last good nerve. But the heroine pretty much refuses to entertain the notion until too many incidents start piling up.....

willaful said...

I like Wilson's historicals more than her romantic suspense, but Only a Whisper is very good.