Blind Faith by CJ Lyons is an edgy, stand-alone romantic suspense novel. This new edition includes new material (available July 31, 2012).
I’ve come to admire well-written romantic suspense. It takes a lot of skill to maintain a number of points of view, grow characters, and provide a dash of romance—both wholesome and hot—then pull the plot together without losing the reader.
CJ Lyons weaves an intricate plot that takes off at a gallop with continual twists and turns along the trail. As a reader I did skid, from time to time, due to some name confusion, a ton of characters, and the frequent demand for suspension of disbelief. But the book, set in the Adirondack Mountains with an eye well focused on that area’s dark beauty—kept me in the stirrups to the last page.
We’ve got two heroines here. The first, Sarah, is a widow who has lost both husband and son to a serial killer. She’s a schoolteacher whose character initially verges on weak until a twist in the plot transforms her long-suppressed anger into gutsy determination. The second, an FBI Special Agent, comes on strong despite serious illness, and it is she who provides a bit of erotic tension. With two heroines, there is room for a handful of flawed heroes, along with two despicable villains.
When the book opens, Sarah is witnessing the execution of the man who confessed to murdering her husband and son along with other little boys. The killer has refused to reveal where he has buried her family, and she leaves with renewed grief, having lost everything without hope of moving on. When she finally determines to find the bodies on her own, we readers sit up in our seats as we’re introduced to her search-and-rescue skills that include backpacking, rock climbing, topographical map reading, tracking, and shooting.
Lyons sustains an undercurrent of suspense throughout the book, and her background as a pediatric ER doctor enhances its shivery forensic detail:
Sarah slipped. Skittering back along the boulder, unable to regain her balance, her feet flew out from under her. Dead leaves and twigs scattered through the air. She slammed back against the rock face, hitting her head. One foot slid into the water, into the grasp of slimy, decomposed vegetation that tried to suck her down.
Her rope stopped her from tumbling completely into the water, where she’d be at the mercy of the current. She lay there, her left leg bent against the boulder, her right one immersed up to her knee, cold water surging in to fill her boot, her head throbbing, her vision flickering with bright lights. At first she couldn’t breathe; it was as if all the air had been sucked out and her lungs collapsed.
She made an effort and drew a deep, long draught of sparkling crisp air that burned her lungs. The muscles along her right chest wall voiced their protest and she knew she’d find bruises there by morning. At least she’d live to see morning. . . .
. . . .The head was misshapen, giving it the appearance of being swollen. The lower jaw hung by one side only. The flesh, eyes, tongue were all gone, as were several of the teeth, leaving a gaping hole behind. The bone was exposed in a few patchy areas, but most of the skull was covered by greasy yellow-brown adipocere tissue and algae interspersed with tangles of hair.
Sarah unravels a trail of lies with the help of men she trusts yet whose hands, it turns out, are not entirely clean. We’re mystified until the final threads of the novel are unwound. Lyons is merciless with one or two characters we’ve come to like, and that dollop of darkness helped me to swallow an otherwise not-quite-believable finish.
Altogether, Lyons is an admirable writer who has given a twist not only to plot and character, but to the romantic suspense genre itself.
Lois Karlin writes fiction and blogs at Women of Mystery. In the pursuit of authenticity she’s learned to dag sheep and take down a silo, and knows where to deep six a body in New York’s Hudson Valley.