Friday, August 11, 2017

Thoughts: Thicker Than Water

Thicker Than Water

by Maggie Shayne
Book 1 of Mordecai Young

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

It was called a haven for runaway teens. In truth, it was a nightmare, one that ended in fiery violence sixteen years ago.  Or so its survivors believed...

Syracuse news anchor Julie Jones is afraid.  Her long-dead past was resurrected when a blackmailer threatened to expose secrets that could destroy her.  Then the man was found dead - his throat cut with a knife from Julie's own kitchen.  Now a new, faceless enemy wants more than money.  This time Julie stands to lose the most precious thing of all - her teenage daughter, Dawn.

Julie finds herself with one unlikely ally, Sean MacKenzie.  A journalist with a flair for the sensational, Sean covers the worst humanity has to offer.  Julie Jones is hiding something that terrifies her, and he's determined to find out what. He just can't decide whether his goal is to expose her or save her.

Julie will do anything to protect her daughter.  But someone else is watching, willing to do whatever it takes to avenge a past that cannot be forgotten.

So, the truth is, this book is definitely no Brown and de Luca, and our heroine was definitely not as much fun as Rachel de Luca had been.  Obviously, it's a different book, and a different series, written at a different time--practically ten years prior.  But I can't deny that I had my hopes.  Sleep with the Lights On was fun and eerie and fast-paced and extremely entertaining.

Thicker Than Water had promise and loads of potential--the story premise is intriguing, the characters were great... well, some of them were.  And while the beginning of the book was kind of rocky--dialogue felt a little stilted, events seemed kind of incredible, and back story might have been a bit rushed--the first half of the book found its footing and progressed at a wonderful pace.

But then, we hit about halfway into the book, and everything sort of plateaus.  I mean, sure, a lot of important events start happening, but I couldn't help but feel that Julie's stubborn reluctance to confide in Sean about her secrets, even after everything that has happened, made the story drag out a bit.  I get the noble "this is my problem and I will deal with it" schtick that a lot of us love to call Noble Idiocy; Julie is motivated to keep her daughter safe, and doesn't want more people to know her secrets than necessary.

But there comes a time in the story progression where a repetitive refusal to finally confide in someone who has proven his trustworthiness over and over again becomes a bit... well, vexing.

I have no problems with Julie, as an individual.  I understand where she's coming from.  She's terrified for her daughter's safety and has taken it upon herself to keep the girl safe; she doesn't know who she can trust and so has lived a lifetime learning to trust only herself.  But there were at least three, or maybe four, or five, instances in the book where I think I gave a frustrated sigh because she wouldn't tell Sean anything about what was going on.  Even after she exclaims to him that, yes, she DOES indeed trust him.

I mean, the guy keeps mum about a murder weapon, for crying out loud; and then he doesn't say a thing about finding out one of Julie's secrets about being part of Mordecai Young's Young Believers sixteen years ago.

But every time he does something to help Julie, she becomes suspicious that he's just out for dirt on her so he can get his next big scoop.  Despite the fact that he'd had dozens of opportunities to out all of her secrets and has not done so.

From a story progression standpoint, this keeps the story itself in a very stagnate place where nothing moves forward because our heroine isn't letting anything move forward.  And we all know that the refusal of one person to confide her secrets to the people who matter can readily cause more trouble in the upcoming conflict, maybe even get someone killed.  But even if not from a story structure standpoint, the fact that Julie's main goal is to protect her daughter could very easily backfire on her when she tries to take everything into her own hands, even though she has no effective solution to her problem that isn't simply just to run away.

So maybe it should have been time to bring someone she can trust into her circle and see if there could be another way of achieving her needs for survival.  Because every time she adamantly refuses legitimate, professional aide in her plight, she digs herself deeper into another ditch... and well, I just kept expecting her to put herself, or her daughter, or even Sean into mortal peril...

The conclusion of the book felt a little crazy and a little rushed... like, I had no idea, really, what was going on.  However, I DO kind of see the whole "full circle" of events transpiring.  It was just executed kind of poorly, to be honest.

As for the romance... it wasn't terrible, truth be told.  Sean was a great character.  Julie, I didn't really relate with, even if I DO understand the reasons behind her actions.  The two DID have some great banter going on, and so as a partnership of co-anchors, they were great together.  As lovers... maybe not so much.

I did adore Dawn, however, and loved her interaction with just about everyone.

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