Sunday, March 13, 2011

Murder, Mystery, and Heat in Charleston

The Alibi, by Sandra Brown, read by Dennis Redfield

Let's just get something out of the way right at the beginning.  This book is to reality as a roller coaster ride is to a drive on the expressway.  Everything is just more.  It is faster with higher highs and lower lows and sharper turns.  The bad guys are badder than bad; the good guys are better than good.  The hero is more heroic.  You get the picture.

If you can take the big leap into "the willing suspension of disbelief," however, Sandra Brown tells a very entertaining story.  It takes place in Charleston which is always a good place for a murder mystery.  It slams together a steamy sexual adventure and the murder of Charleston's richest and most prominant rascal.  It pairs a relentless and wrong-headed police detective with a ruthless and ambitious female assistant DA and pitches them against a pricipled and compromised male assistant DA and a beautiful, mysterious suspect.

Nothing is quite what it appears to be to anyone and no one quite knows what is going on.  Except you, dear reader.  As you work through the story, you know all of both sides.  Or think you do. 

The story careens from one crisis to another.  Each time you think one or another of the characters is out of the woods, they make a mistake that plunges them back into it.  Each time you think it has to be all over for them, something new crops up.

I like this book for its plotting.  It has a fine, intricate plot full of misdirection and intrigue.  New information is carefully revealed and always plausible within the context of the story.

It has interesting characters.  In one way or another, they are all bigger than life - more heroic, more flawed, more corrupted, more despicable, more self-serving.  They are all true to the story and move it along.

This book was published in 1999 and has stood the test of time.  Well, it has stood the test of short time, at least.  We are not talking about Jane Austen here and in 200 years, I doubt that school children will be reading The Alibi.  In fact, if you want to read this now, you have to get a copy from the library or buy it used.

Still, it is a well-crafted novel . If you like a good steamy mystery for a little poolside reading, this is a good choice.  If you are a fledgling writer, this is a good book to read to see how the plot works, how certain plot devices move the story forward, how the reader is drawn in, how the characters are developed.

Or, you could just settle back and enjoy the ride.


For short summaries of more books, check out my Book Snaps page and let me know what you think.

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