Category Archives: Suspense/Thriller

Larry Rochelle. Back to the Rat. Chapel Hill: Larry Rochelle, 2013.

Back to the Rat has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel: an athletic scandal is tarnishing UNC’s reputation and an NCAA investigation of it is itself a questionable endeavor; shadowy figures who may or may not work for the government drug and kidnap the hero; and locals who hope that a beloved Chapel Hill landmark may be resurrected.  Palmer Morel, a forty-something tennis pro is in the midst of all this.

Palmer lives just south of Chapel Hill and as his tennis fortunes have waned, he’s picked up a dubious second career as a bag man for a local mobster, Chucky Minori. He needs the money, but he needs something more too.  At the suggestion of a friend who notices his down mood, Palmer visits The Body Shop, a Carrboro dance therapy center.  There Palmer encounters Pris Price, who he fantasizes could cure all his ills.  Pris both rebuffs and bewitches him, drawing him into danger and an immense conspiracy.

Readers who know the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area will enjoy Mr. Rochelle’s use of local landmarks as the settings for many key scenes.  And Palmer’s confidant and caper partner, the columnist “Barry Cinders”, will bring to mind a certain News & Observer columnist.  But one need not be steeped in local lore to enjoy Back to the Rat.

Back to the Rat is fourteenth Palmer Morel thriller. Morel’s adventures have taken him across the United States, from Kansas City to Biloxi, to Chapel Hill and points in between.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Novels in Series, Orange, Piedmont, Rochelle, Larry, Suspense/Thriller

Lights, Camera, Novel: James Patterson’s Kiss the Girls.

Kiss the Girls Movie PosterJames Patterson’s Alex Cross series was perfectly timed for moviegoers of the nineties who were primed for psychological thrillers after a number of popular hits. Reviewers drew comparisons between Kiss the Girls and other releases like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. However, the comparisons between the films were not entirely favorable. Kiss the Girls starred Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, whose career was just beginning to accelerate.

The novel follows forensic psychologist Alex Cross as he learns that his niece Naomi, a law student at Duke, was kidnapped by a lascivious serial killer who masquerades under the pseudonym, Casanova. Cross abandons DC for Durham. His emotions are high and he is focused on finding Naomi before it’s too late. Meanwhile, medical intern Kate McTiernan is Casanova’s latest victim, but not for long. McTiernan manages to escape, which makes her the anomalous sole survivor. She and Cross team up to uncover Casanova’s true identity and rescue the other victims still languishing in Casanova’s “harem.”

Kiss the Girls is Patterson’s only novel that features a North Carolina setting. But Patterson layered plenty of authenticating detail in his book to evoke the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Filming locations for the movie adaptation were largely limited to Durham, and of course, Los Angeles. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not to approve the film’s request to use the university’s campus during shooting.

In the past, the University has a mixed record of accepting some requests to film on campus, but rejecting others. According to a Daily Tarheel article from 2001, UNC’s major ruling factor is maintaining the University’s image. The University also considers how the project might provide opportunities or disruptions to campus life. Ultimately, the University decided against Kiss the Girls due to its graphic content. Chapel Hill officials did not consent to give the producers permission to shut down Franklin Street for filming.

Although Kiss the Girls is second in the Cross series it was adapted first. Along Came a Spider, the first novel in the series, was a follow-up in 2001. While Kiss the Girls performed well at the box office, critics panned the film for pacing issues and a lack of uniqueness. Both Freeman and Judd were commended for their performances however. In 2012, Tyler Perry starred in an Alex Cross reboot. There are plans for a sequel reportedly.

The clip below, from Movie Clips, shows a scene following Kate’s escape where she delivers a statement to the press:

The movie version is a bit more solemn than the novel. In the book, Kate’s introductory remarks are self-deprecating and elicit a few smiles. More or less, the monologues match up.  But both versions represent Kate as a strong and intelligent character, in spite of her ordeal.

Patterson’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. There are copies at Davis Library and Wilson Library. The film adaptation is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog as well. Copies can be found at the Media Resources Center in the Undergraduate Library and Wilson Library. The original blog post for the novel is here.

Sources consulted here: The Baltimore Sun, The Daily Tarheel (two different articles), Film Journal InternationalIMDb, Movie Clips, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Roger Ebert, The Washington Post (two different reviews), Wikipedia

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1997, Durham, Orange, Patterson, James, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Lights, Camera, Novel: Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan Series.

Kathy Reichs and Emily Deschanel

Kathy Reichs (left), author of Temperance Brennan series and Emily Deschanel (right) star of Bones, a TV show loosely adapted from Reichs’ series. Image courtesy of www.kathyreichs.com/bones.

From the outset it was important to me that the heroine of the series differ somewhat from that in my books. If the two were identical, how would that impact future novels? I often give nicknames to the victims I analyze at my lab. I guess I’ve done that with Bones, labeling the two manifestations of my character “TV Tempe” and “Book Tempe.”

-Kathy Reichs, from her sub-site on Bones

Bones is approaching the ten-year mark. Season nine is well underway and the popular crime drama has been renewed for another season. But before there was Bones, forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs penned the Temperance Brennan series. Reichs has mentioned during interviews that she began writing the series after she became a tenured professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After authoring journal articles and textbooks, Reichs was interested in trying something new. Fiction seemed like the best way to share science with a more generalized audience.

Reichs wrote Déjà Dead, the first book in the series in 1997. Now, in 2014, there are sixteen books in total, with number seventeen due out at some point in the next year. Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series and subsequent Bones TV adaptation, which debuted in 2005, have infiltrated pop culture. But the two formats, more aptly, the two Tempes, are quite different across several categories.

“Book Tempe” is a little older than “TV Tempe” and more situated in her career. She’s also a divorced mom whereas her TV counterpart is has never been married and is child-free. “TV Tempe” works at the fictional Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and “Book Tempe” splits her time, much like Reichs, between teaching at UNC-Charlotte and assisting on crime scenes at the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale in Montreal. Both deal with personal problems. For instance “Book Tempe” negotiates her past alcoholism whereas “TV Tempe” struggles with her deficient social skills and lack of pop culture knowledge (an ongoing joke in the show); her behavior has been remarked on for its characteristics reminiscent of autism.

The Tempes have at least two things in common though – each series is long-running and each exists as a result of the support and input of Reichs. In the case of the novels, Reichs is the author, tapping into her life experience. On Bones, Reichs is a producer who balances the entertainment with scientific accuracy. Reichs has written one episode for Bones, “The Witch in the Wardrobe,” which aired in 2010 (Season 5, Episode 20). They might be markedly different, but the two incarnations of Tempe have Reich’s stamp of approval. Audiences can feel free to love two versions of the same woman.

While Bones is not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, all of the published books in the Temperance Brennan series are available. You can read a previous synopsis of the series here. This blog has individual entries on Death du Jour, Deadly Decisions, Fatal Voyage, Bare Bones, Devil Bones, Spider Bones, Flash and Bones and Bones of the Lost.

Sources consulted here: Bones Wiki (two different entries), E! Online, IGN, Kathy Reichs, NPR, Screen Rant, Wikipedia (two different entries)

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2005, Mystery, Reichs, Kathy, Suspense/Thriller

Janice Lane Palko. Cape Cursed. United States: Plenum Publishing, 2013.

Relocating the Cape Destiny Lighthouse is a high stakes venture for Bliss Sherman.  Moving a structure its size and age is no easy task, and many of the locals oppose relocating the historic structure.  This project will be the first really big job that Sherman Engineering has done since Bliss create the company after splitting (personally and professionally) from the established engineering firm headed by her ex-husband.  This high profile job has brought Bliss a lot of media attention.  Since few engineering firms are headed by Amerasian women, and Bliss is an attractive woman with a compelling story, she has been asked for interviews by everyone from People to the local high school paper.  The project needs to be a success–and on budget.

Bliss is grateful to have good people working for her–Randy, a hands-on crew manager and Nancy, an administrative assistant.  Nancy is a godsend, working around Bliss’s dyslexia to keep the office running smoothly and handling dozen of small personal matters for Bliss.  But will a good plan, the right equipment, and a good crew be enough?  When the company’s equipment is vandalized and Bliss assaulted, Bliss begins to worry.  Is the lighthouse really cursed–do bad things happen to people associated with it? Is her ex-husband, now a professional rival, behind these troubles?  Or are some locals–including that handsome Parker Swain–so committed to stopping the move that they have resorted to violence?  The suspense builds as Bliss struggles to decide who to trust in a situation that has become professionally and personally perilous.

The controversy surrounding moving the fictitious Cape Destiny Lighthouse will remind many readers of the arguments over the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Palko, Janice Lane, Suspense/Thriller

Monique Miller. Quiet as It’s Kept. Deer Park, NY: Urban Christian, 2011.

Quiet as It's KeptA pretty face, a great body, and a chaste attitude? Morgan Tracy seems too good to be true. Her new husband Will can’t believe his good luck in landing his dream woman. He wonders if Morgan was a god-sent blessing — after all they first met at church. Following a quick romance, Will and Morgan raced to the altar and immediately, but by accident, welcomed a baby son named Isaiah nine months after their wedding. Will doesn’t mind the jump from husband to husband and father. He’s elated when he sets eyes on newborn Isaiah. But there’s trouble lingering over him that casts a dark cloud over his happiness. Three weeks before Isaiah was born, Will got laid off from his successful, six-figure job.

Afraid that he might upset Morgan during the end of her three-month long bed rest, Will decides to delay sharing the unfortunate information with his wife who has been increasingly moody during her pregnancy. Besides, Will is hopeful that he will secure another job before he has to tell Morgan the bad news. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Will struggles to find a position to replace his lost income.

With Will’s unemployment, Morgan is forced to support the Tracy household, which she reminds Will every day. Seven months after Isaiah’s birth, Will is still out of a job and Morgan is just as temperamental as she was during her pregnancy. But Will attributes her continued sourness to stress at work and their financial strain. He spends his days and nights caring for Isaiah and searching desperately for a job. The toll of his marital discontent in addition to his unemployment and his constant work as a temporary stay-at-home-dad has weighed heavily on Will.

Will accepts more than his fair share of the blame for Morgan’s hostile attitude and her snide behavior toward him. Since being laid off, it seems that Will can’t make Morgan happy. Anything from his attempt to revise the family budget to leaving lights on around the house sets Morgan off.  But when her behavior grows suspicious and even dangerous, Will questions his wife’s intentions. After a few strange accidents, Will realizes that he doesn’t know all that much about his wife’s background. She’s remained closemouthed on the details of her home town and her deceased parents. Maybe Morgan Tracy is too good to be true.

Novelist Monique Miller covers topics of domestic violence, female-on-male violence, and childhood abuse. Miller’s story emphasizes Christian faith. Will is a devout Christian who attends church regularly and prays about the difficulties and troubles in his life. Although tested, Will’s faith is one element that helps him through his ordeal of unemployment, fatherhood, and marital strife. Quiet as It’s Kept delivers plenty of suspense and an interesting twist on a familiar plot line about abuse and deception. Miller is a North Carolina native who graduated from North Carolina Central University and resides in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Miller, Monique, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational, Suspense/Thriller

William Conescu. Kara Was Here. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2013.

Kara Was HereLife after college doesn’t always go exactly as planned. Brad Mitchell had rainbow-hued hair and hoped to find serious employment as an actor. He was cast in a few area productions and commercials, but nothing that amounted to a real paycheck. So his part-time gig as a realtor went full-time. His wife’s pregnancy and recent vision problems make Brad feel well into his mid-thirties. Margot Cominsky has shed her racy image as “Cougar Cominsky,” seductress of the football team. Instead, she’s packed on some extra weight, probably a result of her booming muffin business. Her love life is unsteady and her current long-distance relationship is steering through choppy waters. Kara Tinsley, Brad’s college girlfriend and Margot’s college friend, moved to New York City to chase after her dreams of becoming an actress. She abandoned Brad back in North Carolina without much of a second look back. Unfortunately, Kara never managed to make a name for herself on Broadway. And now she’s dead.

Kara’s old college friends and family have gathered to mourn her sudden death. Reportedly, Kara died of an overdose. Not a complete shock since to the very end,  she refused to sacrifice her wild nature. Her friends remember Kara’s untamable, spitfire personality and irreverent sense of humor. At the funeral, Brad and Margot are surprised to see each other so different from their college years. They’re even more surprised to meet Steve, Kara’s secret fiancé. Steve (or “Mullet” as Kara called him) was Kara’s last roommate. Margot recalls that Kara didn’t have a single nice word for Mullet the entire time they lived together. So she doubts that Mullet, a hulky, forty-seven year-old loser, and Kara were ever in a serious relationship.

Brad reaches out to Kara’s younger sister, Gwen, who is eighteen and on the cusp of college, freedom, and young adulthood. He offers her a number to call for a little extra support or advice. Gwen ventures to New York for a special summer arts program. She had planned to spend the summer bonding with Kara. Despite Kara’s absence, Gwen decides to attend. During Kara’s funeral though, things turn slightly strange.  Both Brad and Gwen see an apparition of Kara, who lectures them and teases them with her usual spunk. Just as Gwen enters Kara’s old haunts and associates with her sister’s former paramours, Margot drags Brad into her suspicions that Kara was murdered.

A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and NC State graduate, William Conescu, writes a psychological portrait of three college friends and their relatives and significant others. Brad’s double vision seems to represent the central aspect of the novel: aging and its effects on identity. Conescu’s characters, Brad and Margot in particular, are split in their identities, stuck between their former teenage and twenty-something self and the passage into their new thirty-something self. Gwen endures a similar entrance into young adulthood. Kara’s death brings Brad and Margot, and even Gwen, into a state of unnerving self-evaluation. But they soon realize that not only was Kara not exactly the person they thought her to be, neither are they.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Conescu, William, Mystery, Orange, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

Ann Hite. The Storycatcher. New York: Gallery Books, 2013.

The Storycatcher“I heard tell there was a colored woman’s ghost who walked the Ridge. She was what old-timers called a story-catcher. Her job was to set life stories straight, ‘cause the Lord only knew how many were all twisted in a knot.”

Ann Hite’s The Storycatcher is a Southern Gothic that will keep readers awake at night tracing the interconnections between the different families and characters. Hite’s novel is lush, complex and ambitious in style. She splits the tale between location: Black Mountain, North Carolina and Darien, Georgia and time: the action occurs in the 1930s but there are letters and recollections from the late 1800s. Like any true Gothic, Hite incorporates paranormal elements. A few of the primary characters are no longer living. They are known as “haints” to the people of Black Mountain. Essentially, they are ghosts who are waiting for their stories to be finished.

Although the story has several voices, it centers around two young girls named Shelly Parker and Faith Dobbins. Shelly is a servant to the Dobbins family. As a rule, she dislikes the Dobbins clan. Pastor Dobbins, the patriarch of the family, exerts his influence over the town. The mountain people of the area relent before Pastor Dobbins’ divine authority. Although his title gives him power however, the locals doesn’t respect Pastor Dobbins so much as fear him. Pastor Dobbins is a fire and brimstone preacher who speaks of eternal damnation. Regardless of his theological trade, he is an evil man motivated by secrets and violence. But Shelly has greater initial contempt for Pastor Dobbins’ spoiled daughter, Faith, who orders her around on silly tasks. “Miss Prissy” Faith is “the neediest white girl,” who, in Shelly’s eyes, doesn’t lift a finger. What truly agitates Shelly is Faith’s closeness to her mother, Amanda, and her brother, Will.

However, when shrouded secrets emerge and point toward Pastor Dobbins, the girls investigate. In fact, they are forced together out of necessity. Shelly can see spirits; Faith is haunted by spirits, namely Arleen Brown who died during childbirth five years prior and was buried with her infant boy. Arleen alludes to the fact that she did not become pregnant of her own accord. Arleen occupies Faith’s body and compels the novel forward. What stories will Shelly and Faith find that are left to be told?

The Storycatcher dwells on the theme of retribution. Hite adopts a splintered narrative that features multiple perspectives, specifically six female point-of-view characters. She also braids in mountain superstitions and pieces of folklore, including charm quilts, death quilts, and hoodoo. These traditions, along with the racially-charged environment of the South during the 1800s and 1930s, reiterate the sense of interrelation and the desire for vengeance to adjust past inequities.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Historical, Hite, Ann, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller

Kathy Reichs. Bones of the Lost. New York: Scribner, 2013.

Bones of the LostThings just aren’t going Temperance Brennan’s way. At the opening of Kathy Reichs’ sixteenth installment of her best-selling Temperance Brennan series, Temperance is stuck tapping her toes in a very uncomfortable pair of Louboutin pumps at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. She was called for jury duty and even though her role as medical examiner will exempt her from selection, the inexperienced prosecutor makes Brennan jump through all the hoops first. Because losing more than half a day wasn’t enough, Brennan locks herself out of her car with her purse and cell phone inside. After several unsuccessful attempts to jimmy open the lock and an awkward exchange with an overeager parking attendant turned vigilante, an unwanted savior arrives.

Police detective Erskine “Skinny” Sliddell appears and gives Brennan a lift back to the Medical Examiner’s office. But not before filling her in on the latest case. Early that morning, an unidentified teen was killed in a hit and run. Although the girl didn’t have any form of ID for herself, she was carrying John-Henry Story’s U.S. Airways club card. Story was a businessman who died when a fire broke out at his flea market six months ago. Or at least, Brennan determined that the remains found at the scene fit the profile for Story. Sliddell speculates that the Jane Doe was involved in prostitution, based on her possessions, her estimated time of death, and her location. When Brennan returns to the Medical Examiner’s office, she examines the Jane Doe’s body. Because of the nature of the case (young, innocent victim and brutal death), Brennan struggles to not let her emotions overrule her logic, especially when she rules the supposed accident to be something more sinister. The Jane Doe wasn’t killed by accident, she was murdered.

Brennan is already busy though. She has four sets of mummified dog remains from Peru that she must certify as human or nonhuman. U.S. Customs seized the remains from former Marine, Dominick Rockett upon his reentry to the country. Rockett has a history of smuggling smaller antiques and trinkets out of South America. His usual inventory consists of inexpensive jewelry, crafts, and home wares. But apparently Rockett is expanding his market.  The two crimes run parallel at first, but as Brennan investigates with a keener eye, she identifies that both cases involve illegal trafficking of goods and that some of the implicated figures overlap.

Meanwhile, Reichs weaves in elements of Brennan’s personal life into the story. Her daughter Katy has enlisted in the army as a means to recover from the grief of her boyfriend’s unexpected death. Katy soothed her mother’s anxieties by reassuring that she would never be sent into combat. Then the US Army lifted the ban on women in combat and sent Katy to Afghanistan. But Brennan gets the opportunity to visit Katy overseas. Her estranged husband Pete, who is pressuring her for divorce papers, pressures Brennan into traveling to Afghanistan to help out an old buddy’s nephew who is accused of shooting two unarmed villagers. Pete wants Brennan to exhume the bodies and take the stand as an expert witness. With the promise of seeing Katy, Brennan boards Turkish Airlines to do a little extra detective work. And, as it turns out, Brennan owes Pete a huge thank you. Going to Afghanistan helps her lace the evidence together and reveal a surprising conspiracy at work.

Browse the blog for other coverage on Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series. You can filter the search by clicking on and navigating through the author category in the top right-hand column. With this view you can see all the past authors we have blogged about and the number of entries available. Or click on the categories and tags below.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mecklenburg, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Reichs, Kathy, Suspense/Thriller

Robin Weaver. Blue Ridge Fear. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Sienna Saunders forfeited her condo in Atlanta to a relocate to a ramshackle cabin in the woods with her self-absorbed cousin, Bethany Larkin. As one character puts it, Bethany is something of a “Blue Ridge Barbie,” always busy twisting two or three different guys around her pinky.  Moving wasn’t so much a choice as the only option left for Sienna though. After her relationship with her boss fizzled out and she lost her graphic design job, Sienna decided to start up her own company. Unfortunately for Sienna, her former boss was not pleased by her new venture or by the fact that Sienna managed to steal a few clients away. So he slapped Sienna with a lawsuit.

Broke, jobless, and soon to be homeless, when Sienna heard about her inheritance from her uncle, a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, she jumped at the opportunity. Even though that opportunity means living with Bethany for a year. According to the terms of the will, Bethany and Sienna must live together in the cabin for a full year. If either one moves then neither can claim their inheritance. Sienna and Bethany have never gotten along, and Sienna speculates that the pairing is one last attempt from her uncle to force them to bond. She doesn’t hold out much hope for the relationship. But she does need a place to stay.

On an ill-advised hiking trip, Bethany drops her purse into a river. Sienna nimbly climbs over the slippery river rocks to retrieve the bag. Before she reaches dry land, Bethany’s scream (an animal frightened her) surprises Sienna, and she slips and twists her ankle. While Bethany sets out for help, Sienna waits alone in the woods, with dripping wet clothes and a pounding ankle. A mysterious stranger appears and helps Sienna with her injury. She doesn’t trust him, yet she doesn’t have any alternatives with a useless ankle. He warns Sienna about a killer on the loose and the three women who have been found murdered around the area in the last three months. When Bethany returns with two park rangers, named Lars and Anton, the mysterious stranger disappears.

Once she is safely returned to the cabin, Sienna feels befuddled. Part of her longs to bump into the mysterious stranger again. She scolds herself for feeling so entranced by a complete stranger. After all, he might just be the killer. Soon after her accident however, he materializes. Sienna learns that the stranger’s name is Carson Addison, but that is just about the only information she can seem to weasel out of him. He advises her to return to Atlanta for her safety. Apparently, the killer targets blonde, blue-eyed women – women exactly like Sienna. Sienna wonders if Carson is toying with her, if she can trust him, and, most importantly whether she should leave now, before she becomes victim number four.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller, Weaver, Robin

Rebecca Lee Smith. A Dance to Die For. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Annabel Maitland is a dedicated ballet dancer. So dedicated that she chokes down handfuls of ibuprofen to numb her pounding hip for practices and performances.  Since Annabel is older than most of the other ballerinas (she’s 34), she strives to work twice as hard to compensate for her age. When the novel begins, she is dancing in an off-Broadway production called Moondance.  During one of the performances, Annabel and her friend, Quinn Wolcott, break into a stash of pain relievers to heavily medicate their aches and pains before the show. As Annabel waits for the ballet to begin, her head is spinning and she feels unsteady on her feet; she’s woozy rather than relaxed.

Despite concerned comments from the stage manager and her dance partner Byron, Annabel insists she is well enough to dance. Not long after the performance begins, Quinn experiences anaphylactic shock. The other dancers continue the piece, ignoring Quinn as she gasps for air. Annabel, the only dancer not callously concerned with maintaining a professional veneer, breaks formation and grabs Quinn just before she topples off the stage. Quinn falls on top of Annabel, seriously injuring Annabel’s weak hip. Quinn’s dying words are a cryptic jumble of names and a request to find her killer.

Two months later, Annabel departs New York and journeys to Asheville under the pretense of establishing and managing a dinner theater at the Sheffield Inn. Her dancing career is finished. Annabel’s age was enough of a detriment, but her wounded hip guarantees that she is permanently out of commission. She can teach for the Sheffield Inn, but it’s doubtful if she can dance for a professional company again. The worn-out mountain inn, a little ways outside of town, is in Annabel’s words, “a rundown, miniature version of Tara.” Annabel sought out the position to fulfill her promise to Quinn to investigate her murder. Quinn lived in nearby Black Mountain, but she was romantically linked to the owners of the inn, brothers Trent and Gil Sheffield. Gil was Quinn’s fiancé and Trent was Quinn’s former boyfriend.

Gil welcomes Annabel warmly and shows her around the inn. He sets her to work immediately on preparing the space with two carpenters. Midway through hanging lights, Trent interrupts the crew. Evidently he was out of town and not privy to Gil’s dinner theater plans. Trent fires Annabel on the spot. The brothers already have invested in repairs to restore the building so they, according to Trent, shouldn’t throw extra money toward a harebrained non-necessity that Gil cooked up. Trent is stable and orderly while Gil is impractical and affable. After some finagling, Gil and Annabel persuade Trent the dinner theater is a lucrative opportunity.

Trent is not convinced that he can trust Annabel and her connections to Quinn. But the show goes on and Annabel’s investigation continues. She doesn’t have to snoop around for long before she discovers that Quinn had plenty of enemies who are much happier now that she’s dead. Yet regardless of Quinn’s negative reputation, as the evidence stacks up Annabel starts to wonder if Quinn’s death was a mistake and if she was the original target all along. If her suspicions are right, then Annabel might be searching for her own killer.

Novelist Rebecca Lee Smith’s case is hard to crack until the final twist is revealed. Smith provides intrigue through the romance triangle backstory between Trent, Gil and Quinn. Her portrayal of the competitive New York dancing world feels believable in its heartlessness. A Dance to Die For is a mystery readers could easily lose themselves in for a few hours.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Romance/Relationship, Smith, Rebecca Lee, Suspense/Thriller