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Monday, January 24, 2011

"Southern Lights"

by Danielle Steel, 2009, Playaway audio, 9hrs, rating=3.5

This took me for a loop.  I was at the library for a quick browse at the Playaway rack and saw this ...Danielle Steel, I figured a romance book.  I haven't read one in ages so I picked it up without reading the blurb.  When I listened to it at home, it started off in a mystery fashion.  I was disappointed!  I was looking forward to romance and it wasn't.  Never occurred to me that an author would go out of his known genre (back in the 80s I pegged her out as a romance novelist).  I was enlightened!

So the story starts off with a chase and capture of the elusive Luke Quentin by New York detectives.  Then they got lucky and gathered substantial evidence that presented Luke as the snuff serial killer.  So this is where Alex Hamilton, the main protagonist, comes in.  She is the assistant DA that would be prosecuting Quentin.  But then threatening letters started to surface that were addressed to her 17yo daughter, Savannah.  Of course, in fear of her safety she had to turn to her ex-husband, Tom, for help.  It had been 11 years since she had left her southern life with him but she had nowhere else to turn.  So she sent Savannah to live with her father for 3-4 months while she was preparing for the huge trial.  From the get go Tom's current wife, Louisa, had it out for Savannah.  Those few months promised to be hell with Mrs. Cruella de Vil! 

Though initially disappointed thinking that I had another psycho-thriller book in my ears (having just finished Darkly Dreaming Dexter), the story actually focused on the personal life of Alexa.  We learn the background to her past southern life and get sucked in on the drama that enfolds.  But this time around I was preparing myself for a twist.  I was waiting for a dark moment to pop into the memory lane segment, after all the story started out about a suspected killer.  Did it come?  I can't tell you.  I don't want to spoil it for you!

I enjoyed the set of southern characters in this book ... southern hospitality with a hint of snobbishness.  I'm certainly ruined from ever voicing the phrase bless her heart!, unless of course I want to be mean (just kidding, this was a fictional story and not necessarily representative of southern culture).  Overall, we meet a variety of intriguing personalities.

This was a nice surprise and it turned out to be mostly a "page turner".  I personally think it could have ended at chapter 19 (or 20, can't remember for sure).  Those last few chapters could have been summed up in a quick epilogue or could have been used as the beginning to a sequel, so that was my main hiccup of this book.  What I did appreciate was the overall theme of family ties and cultivating relationships.  Oddly enough it was also somewhat a hiccup moment ... everything turned out too smoothly.  This makes me sympathetic to an author's search for a happy medium for their readers... just can't please everyone! 

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