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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock

Thelma and Wayne, the beloved parents of Morgan Cleary, have been found murdered with a spear gun. Morgan's husband Jonathan is the number one suspect in the murder, but no one on the small island town of Cape Refuge believe Jonathan would do such a thing. Morgan and her sister, Blair, are determined to find the real killer in order to convince police chief Matthew Cade that Jonathan is innocent. But Hanover House, the refuge for released convicts and runaways Thelma and Wayne operated, is under the fire of the city council on the grounds that it attracts criminals to Cape Refuge. A teenage girl with an unknown past has appeared on the island seeking refuge in Hanover House, but she seems to know more than she lets on. With so much uncertainty, Morgan does not know if she can carry on with her husband in jail. However, she and Blair must face alone a terrible secret in their parents' past.

Terri Blackstock is a not a cheap suspense author who scribbles down a cheesy story whose plot is borrowed from so many other authors and calls this story exciting and suspenseful. No, her fiction has meaning and purpose behind that is not found in just any suspense book. However, even with these strengths, Terri does not seem to want to shed some cliches of suspense-namely the showdown scene.

Morgan, Blair, Jonathan, Cade, even Thelma and Wayne are all imperfect characters. Some of these have better personalities than the others, but there is not a perfect character on Cape Refuge. Even though Thelma and Wayne are portrayed as saints at first, later information shows these reports to be false, thank God. Cade is not the perfect male lead he could have been, but he still does not show any personality. Jonathan is not the perfect victim he could have been; he still has a lot of issues, even though it is obvious early on that he is innocent of the deaths of his in-laws. The true villain is one of the better killers I have ever read because they actually have a purpose in their killing. This is often a cliche in suspense-a ruthless, killing-machine villain. However, this is not the case here.

Whatever her discrepancies with ends are, Terri Blackstock knows how to make the journey interesting. The case is as realistic as it could have been and is certainly not straightforward. There are many twists, turns, dead ends, false suspects, and key character deaths along the way. This elevates her another level above cheap suspense because she demonstrates the ability to actually write a creative plot. However, a showdown scene with a fake death keeps this book from all that it could have been. I fail to understand suspense authors' obsessions with showdown scenes. However, if they are going to write them, they should at least kill off a key character or two. Showdowns and hostage situations do not turn out squeaky clean in the real world.

Whatever her faults are, Terri Blackstock clearly knows what she is doing. She is a true author because she writes her own plots rather than borrow them from someone else. If she'll improve her ends, she'll be a flawless author.

4 stars

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