Thread of Fear

Laura Griffin
October 2008, Romantic Suspense
Pocket Star, $6.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 1416570632

Grade: C-
Sensuality: Warm

Thread of Fear features a forensic artist, whose gift is both a blessing and curse to her. Though the book's premise intrigued me, its execution was muddled mainly by pacing problems. Itís a classic "C" level read.

Artist Fiona Glass never depicts faces in her own paintings because of the work she does for law enforcement agencies. Besides teaching art at a university in Austin, Texas, Fiona helps police by working as a forensic artist. Her sketches are extraordinarily life-like and have led to the capture of many criminals, but Fiona doesnít want to do forensics any more. The stress of capturing the souls of soulless men gives her nightmares. Fionaís sister Courtney thinks she might be a bit psychic since her sketches are so lifelike, but psychic or not, Fionaís abilities cause her a lot of pain. For a gallery showing, Fiona plans to paint a series of canvases based on views of the river she remembers from her childhood, teach her classes, and leave the criminals to the police.

Jack Bowman is the head of police in Graingerville, a small town south of Austin. Years ago, a man kidnapped, raped and tortured Lucy, a young woman whom Jack was dating. Luckily, she got away but sheís been scarred by the experience. Jack hears about Fionaís gift from a mutual friend and comes to Austin, begging her to talk to Lucy and try and get a sketch of the man. At first Fiona refuses but later acquiesces. She interviews Lucy and produces one of her life-like sketches, age progressed to depict the man as he would be now. A few days later, a young boy hiding in a tree house sees someone dump a womanís body in a field. Jack begs Fiona to interview the boy and she agrees reluctantly. Her sketch of the man the boy saw almost exactly matches the sketch she did of the man who attacked Lucy. It looks like a killer has returned to the scene of his activities.

The plot of Thread of Fear had a lot of promise, but it never quite delivered. Instead of the plot gathering steam, it sort of sat there and sputtered. When I read a good romantic suspense novel, the action begins quietly, then gathers momentum and builds toward an exciting climax. The action in this book would build nicely and then it would wheeze to a stop while Fiona angsted, her sister got drunk, Jack had a problem with the major, or Fiona's mentor...Then the suspense would have to build again. It didnít help that the villain doesnít show up till almost the very end and by that time, Iíd almost forgotten him.

Fiona is a character who blows hot and cold. She is going to give up forensics, then she isnít. She likes Jack, then she doesn't, then she, wait, she doesn't...and so it goes. Finally she decides she likes him, but by then I didn't much care. Neither Fiona nor Jack are characters who will stick to you after you close the book. He does vacillate like she does, and I admired his passion for justice, but heís not a bit memorable.

I like romantic suspense and have read several very good books in the genre this year. With romantic suspense as popular as it is, and so many good books out there (I recommend Karen Rose's) I think readers could easily give this one a pass.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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