Review: Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Seeing Red by Sandra Brown is a thriller with supercharged sexual tension about tainted heroism and vengeance without mercy (available August 15, 2017).

What do you think of when you think of a Sandra Brown bestseller? Consider some key phrases: “trademark nonstop suspense,” “supercharged sexual tension,” and “thriller,” of course. Another tell is her complicated, intricate plots, which often go back years in the past. It’s a fool’s game to try to guess the outcome—let alone the villain(s)—so sit back and enjoy the ride; Seeing Red will have you compulsively turning the pages. 

Some fictional private detectives have a reputation for being sleazy slobs, albeit smart and determined. John Trapper doesn’t disappoint. He spars with a client without an appointment. She tells him her name is Kerra Bailey, but he doesn’t recognize her and says that it’s not a good time for him. That doesn’t fly, she’s very persistent. Trapper thinks to himself that she looks like she can pay the bill—her handbag “was the size of a small suitcase and covered in designer initials.” Trapper opens the door for her, not wanting to “say no to a lady in distress.”

He kicked the file cabinet drawer shut with his heel and still got to his desk ahead of her in time to relocate an empty but smelly Chinese food carton and the latest issue of Maxim. He’d ranked the cover shot among his top ten faves, but she might take exception to that much areola.

She sat in one chair and placed her bag in another. As he rounded the desk, he buttoned the middle button of his shirt and ran a hand across his mouth and chin to check for remaining drool.

The office is trashed and an empty bottle of Dom seems to require an explanation.

“Buddy of mine got married.”

“Last night?”

“Saturday afternoon.”

Her eyebrows arched. “It must have been some wedding.”

He shrugged, then leaned back in his chair. “Who recommended me?”

“No one. I got the address off your website.”

That’s a lie. Kerra isn’t looking for just any gumshoe, although perhaps it’s not unusual for new clients to shade the truth when they’re meeting with a private detective for the first time.

Kerra Bailey is a glossy, articulate, smart-as-a-whip television reporter. The Texas media market is too small a playground for her; she has “New York here-I-come” written all over her. There’s a story that will cement her reputation, but she can’t get Major Trapper—the hero of the Pegasus bombing some 25 years ago—to return her phone calls. Maybe his son, a former ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) agent now solo operator, can grease the wheels for her with his father.

Not happening. Trapper and his father haven’t been close for a long time, but when Trapper was fired from the ATF, they became completely estranged. There’s nothing Kerra can say to get Trapper to intervene on her behalf. 

“Is this a fucking joke?”


“Seriously, who put you up to this?”

“No one, Mr. Trapper.”

“Just plain Trapper is fine, but it doesn’t matter what you call me because we don’t have anything else to say to each other.” He stood up and headed for the door.

“You haven’t even heard me out.”

“Yeah. I have. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta take a piss and then I’ve got a hangover to sleep off. Close the door on your way out. This neighborhood, I hope your car’s still there when you get back to it.”

That’s a flat-out turn-down. But when John gets back from the men’s room, Kerra is still there. Perhaps there is something she can do to get him to reconsider—tempt him with the truth. She lays a reproduction of a famous photograph on his desk. John tells her he’s seen it, but she won’t drop the subject, pointing out that the sign on his “frosted glass” door says Private Investigator. He sardonically agrees with her.

“Fort Worth’s own Sherlock Holmes.”

“Are you state licensed?”

“Oh, yeah. I have a gun, bullets, everything.”

“Do you have a magnifying glass?”

The question baffled him because she hadn’t asked it in jest. She was serious. “What for?” 

Those pouty pink lips fashioned an enigmatic smile, and she whispered, “Figure it out.”

Kerra gives John her business card and tells him to call her cell number when he changes his mind. He thinks “hell would freeze over first” until he reluctantly searches for and discovers his “long-forgotten magnifying glass.”

Four hours later, he was still in his desk chair, still reeking, head still aching, eyes still scratchy. But everything else had changed.

He set down the magnifier, pushed the fingers of both hands up through his hair, and held his head between his palms. “Son of a bitch.”

To say more would give away a complicated, absorbing plot. Suffice it to say that Trapper and Bailey’s pasts are intertwined. There’s a Biblical truism that Shakespeare reframed in The Merchant of Venice: “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” The theme of Seeing Red is how the actions of men—both heroic and villainous—decades earlier, inform, twist, and shape the present day. Corruption and greed fester over time, and it takes an inordinate amount of courage and persistence to ferret out the players who continue to manipulate present-day events. Fortunately, John Trapper and Kerra Bailey, once they recognize what they have in common, make a formidable couple.

Sandra Brown’s Seeing Red is passionate, frighteningly timely, and a terrific thriller. 


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


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