Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fiction: Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins

Please welcome guest reviewer Carlton Hughes, a community college professor, director of children's ministry, and member of Kentucky Christian Writers Conference steering committee.

I have a confession to make: I don’t like suspense.

I don’t like horror movies. Nor thrillers. I don’t like being on the edge of my seat for 90 minutes or longer. The same goes for books. I would be a prime candidate for Christian suspense author Brandilyn Collins’ Big Honkin’ Chickens Club (BHCC, for short), designed for those of us who don’t like the scary stuff (I prefer the term “suspense-challenged” to the “C” word).

I have avoided Collins’ work for a long time for this reason, but I finally relented and accepted a chance to read her latest release, Dark Pursuit. I’m glad I did.

There’s a reason Collins’ brand is “Seatbelt Suspense.” In Dark Pursuit, the action starts almost immediately and doesn’t let up until the whiz-bang finale. Interspersed among the action and tension are excellent characterizations and enough creative plot twists to fill two or three novels.
The story involves “King of Suspense” novelist Darell Brooke, who is attempting to write his 100th novel while battling physical and mental problems brought on by a car accident. His frustration with writer’s block is illustrated by snippets of his strained work-in-progress.

Enter Kaitlan Sering, Brooke’s estranged granddaughter who is caught in a web of deceit and murder and has nowhere to turn but to Brooke. Though his mental capacities are faded, Brooke hatches a plan to help his granddaughter, and much action ensues.

Collins has the gift of “tension,” of keeping the story moving at a breakneck pace with unexpected turns. Character development doesn’t suffer, as her characters practically leap off the page with their quirks and inclinations.

Brooke’s assistant, Margaret, serves as the spiritual center of the book, which illustrates the folly of the “dark pursuit of vain empires.” The spiritual side could have been a bit beefier, but Collins deftly weaves themes of grace and mercy through the characters of Kaitlan, who has made some unwise choices and has to face the consequences, and of Brooke, who realizes that he has sacrificed family relationships for fame and fortune.

The denouement is a bit violent for my taste, but it certainly keeps your eyes glued to the page with its many twists and turns.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, thrilling read, Dark Pursuit is for you. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it will keep you turning pages longer than you want.

This suspense thing might be okay after all. I may read more of Collins’ work—as soon as I build up my courage after reading Dark Pursuit.

I’m holding off on that BHCC Membership Card for now.

Thanks, Carlton, for a great review in a genre I have also avoided. You just might have changed my mind about giving it a try.

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