Fiction — print. Grand Central Publishing, 2015. 486 pgs. Purchased.
It’s been awhile since I found myself (internally) screaming at a character to stop being so stupid. Yet, that was all I could do with the characters Sparks created for this novel.
After about 100 pages, the main female character, Maria, reveals that she was sent unsigned, menacing notes following the death of a domestic violence victim. At the time, Maria was working as a prosecutor, and the victim’s murderer had previously been prosecuted by the DA’s office for an assault charge. Due to the victim’s contradictory statements and unreliable narrative, Maria and the DA had decided to plead out the defendant to a lesser charge with a shorter prison sentence.
The defendant served his time, returned to stalking his ex-girlfriend who had previous brought the domestic violence charge against him, and then murdered her after he learned she was dating someone new. The case shook Maria’s confidence in her chosen field, and the family targeted their anger towards her.
When the notes started arriving, Maria reported them to the police and suggested that the victim’s brother was to blame. But the father, whom Maria suspected was controlling his children and orchestrated their false claims against his daughter’s murderer, insisted his son was not behind the letters and the cops were persuaded to drop the case after the letters stopped arriving.
Fast forward a year, Maria quit her job with the DA, moved back to her hometown in North Carolina, and has started working as a lawyer disputing insurance claims for insurance companies. Her sister sets her up with Collin, and Maria is debating whether to continue dating him or trust her instincts about how readily a guy out on probation for violent assault can really change.
Yet, when roses and suspicious notes start arriving at Maria’s office, she assumes the culprit to be her new boss, who has a history of sexual harassment in the workplace. It takes her nearly 100 more pages to realize that maybe the new notes are connected to the old notes. One hundred pages! I kept rolling my eyes and (internally) yelling with each turn of the page over how stupid she’s being.
When Maria finally does wise up, her budding romance with Collin takes a backseat as Sparks tries to escalate the suspense and intrigue with a few red herrings. But he tipped his hand early on in the story thanks to the backstory information Maria provides Collin, and I was unsurprised and underwhelmed by the conclusion.
I was also disappointed because I thought Sparks set up an interesting story with Collin, and I wanted to story to stay focused on him rather than on Maria. Other than the moments where he turns into the Hulk, he largely stays in the background until he’s needed to save the damsel in distress.
So disappointing, especially since I stated earlier this month that I felt I may have been too quick to dismiss Sparks’ novels and was interested in reading more of his work. I definitely would have sung a different tune if I had picked this book up first.