Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Blood Vines" by Erica Spindler

Alex Clarkson returns to Sonoma Valley, home of several wine estates, after the body of a mummified baby is uncovered. It would appear the baby is her half-brother, who went missing when she was just five. As it turns out, Alex had a whole family back then when her mother was married to Harlan Sommer. However, something made her mother flee the area and take Alex with her, doing everything in her power to make sure that Alex forgot that time in her life.

Her reunion with the family she never knew is the trigger for some of her own disturbing memories to surface. Did she witness something horrible the night her half-brother disappeared? Other strange things start to happen - a mutilated baby doll is found hanging from a tree, a dead lamb is left in Alex's apartment. Then people start to die. What secret are the townspeople hiding? What made her mother flee all those years ago? The only two people Alex can turn to for help are her ex-husband Tim and Daniel Reed, the police detective on the case. And a love triangle is the last thing she needs...

There's a decent mystery wrapped up somewhere in "Blood Vines", but it gets lost amongst a clutter of thinly developed characters and a jumble of half-baked potential motives. By the end, I wasn't able to concretely pinpoint down who did what to whom and why. The book is a good read - getting to the end is an enjoyable experience, as was trying to figure out the mystery. However, like I said, there's just too many characters here and I would sometimes forget how each person was connected.

Alex herself isn't the greatest heroine to grace a thriller. I lost count of the number of times she would throw herself at either Tim or Daniel and bury her head in their chest whenever she was afraid, stressed, upset or horny. Which was most of the time. I also didn't understand why the hell she just didn't get the hell out of dodge. Simply repeating the sentence "I'm not going to be chased away!" isn't really enough. Honey, if you let yourself get chased away, all the bad stuff stops. Do you get that? Let the police do their work. Of course, if she split for home there wouldn't be a novel, but surely there was some extenuating circumstance the author could have devised to force Alex to stay in town? Her melodramatic personality and her stubborn stupidity often made me feel like grabbing a vine and wrapping it around her neck.

There are worse thrillers out there. "Blood Vines" grabbed my interest and kept me in its thrall until the end. But the true promise shown with "Last Known Victim" appears to be slipping away.

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