Sunday, March 16, 2014

Surface Tension (Christine Kling)

Surface Tension
(The Seychelle Sullivan Suspense series, Book 1)
Christine Kling
Ballantine Books
Fiction, Mystery/Suspense
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Seychelle Sullivan grew up on the waterways of South Florida. Now nearly thirty, she runs a salvage operation with her late father's custom boat, struggling to keep her dream and her independence alive. When the distress call came from the luxury yacht, the Top Ten, Seychelle was just thinking of the salvage fee... and, yes, the fact that her ex-boyfriend Neal was the skipper, but she'd been over him for months. Then she finds the drifting yacht... and the body.
With a young woman dead and Neal vanished, save a pool of his blood, the cops focus on Seychelle. But how can she have killed a man who may not be dead? Even as she struggles to deal with being a prime suspect, her world takes another blow when her brother suddenly wants out of his part of the family business, demanding she sell the boat or buy him out with money he knows she doesn't have. Now she needs that salvage fee more than ever. But the Top Ten's owners seem every bit as elusive as her possibly-deceased ex-boyfriend. The more she investigates, the more trouble she finds - for herself and everyone around her.

REVIEW: As one might expect from a suspense title, the story starts quickly. Seychelle may not always be the brightest investigator, but she's dogged in her pursuit of the truth, even as she worries about how she seems to be endangering her friends. She does most of her investigating on her own; her friends provide mostly moral support and off-screen research. Along the way, her own character flaws come to light, revealed by the stress of the situation as matters quickly spiral out of her control. South Florida comes alive almost as a character itself, a patchwork, changing world of everglades and canals, old kitch and new money. The whole thing builds to a tense climax with a decent payoff. I came close to shaving it a half-star for some wavering on Seychelle's part - knowing there's danger about and nobody can be trusted, she nevertheless lets her libido cloud her judgement - but overall I was satisfied with the story. I don't know if I'll follow Seychelle's further adventures, but this was a decent, fairly fast read on its own.

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