Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: The Shape of Night

I was really excited when I first heard about The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen.  As much as I love the Rizzoli/Isles series (the books, the TV show...not so much), the last book, while a good suspense novel, felt regressive in terms of character development.  So a "break" to return to her romantic suspense roots felt like a smart move to me - and let's be honest, I am here for Gothic anything every day of the week and twice on Sundays.  So how was this?  Well, it's different - I'll give it that.  It was a very mixed read for me during the first half, but it's compelling and it will certainly irritate the heck out of Eww, No Romance Cooties In My Dead Body Books brigade - which I take perverse pleasure in because...well, I'm a spiteful old cow.

Ava Collette is running away from Boston after Something Bad Happens, and heads to a quiet small town in Maine to rent an old coastal manor named Brodie's Watch.  Built by a sea captain, Jeremiah Brodie, who went down with his ship, the isolated manor has a color history including rumored sightings of the ghost of Captain Brodie, the death of a teenage girl one Halloween night, and a previous tenant who hastily left town with two months left on her lease. 

Ava's not in residence for long before she's experiencing encounters with Captain Brodie, who seems to see directly into her soul, revealing her deepest, darkest and most shameful secrets.  As she falls in love with the house and under the spell of a ghostly apparition, Ava's grasp on what is real and what is not starts to unravel, leading her to confront her own past and solve the mystery of Brodie's Watch, a house that has a history of claiming the lives of its female occupants.

The big hurdle for me was Captain Brodie who is not only a ghost but a BDSM ghost.  Yes, you just read that sentence.  The whole thing felt hokey, silly.  But, as a general rule, my enjoyment of supernatural, let alone sexy supernatural, is pretty low.  A lesser writer, one I don't have a history with (I've read A LOT of Gerritsen over the years), would have been on a shorter leash.  So I stuck with this, and in the end, Gerritsen puts a spin on the whole BDSM angle that worked for me.  Your mileage may vary.

What worked better for me were the side subplots that also added to the mystery and tension of the story.  Namely, why is Ava running away from Boston, what really happened to the previous tenant who left behind personal belongings, and the story behind Brodie's Watch as a whole.  Ava follows the recent trend of suspense novel heroines who hits the bottle liberally, leading her to making terrible life choices (see: leaving Boston) and questioning her sanity. 

My two firm quibbles with this story is that Ava's drinking problem, while eventually addressed, never really gets more than a surface treatment and the mystery of why she fled Boston is revealed but I suspect some readers will be annoyed that it's never fully aired out.  Revealing more than that is a Huge Honkin' Spoiler - but suffice it to say that Ava is party to something Really Not Cool and I suspect it will be a bridge too far for some.  Hey, everybody makes mistakes.  Everybody has regrets.  But Ava's is a doozey.  Boy howdy.

Which makes it sound like I didn't like this book.  I did.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it's haunting and compelling and even with my quibbles it's a story that has lingered with me days after finishing.  Which, given the amount of books I've read over the course of my lifetime?  Is saying something.

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

I'm BDSM-ed out myself, but the rest of the story sounds intriguing.

Mind you, *I* haven't read a lot of Gerritsen, so I don't trust her as I would other authors. On the other hand, I tend to enjoy paranormals focusing on ghosts, so...

Wendy said...

AL: I should also disclose that while there are "romantic elements" it is, most definitely, not a romance. Gerritsen has the whole creepy house in Maine clocked though and the suspense worked for me.

azteclady said...

I am struggling reading romance, so this is not the deterrent it might have been at some other time.