Monday, January 22, 2007
Dee Henderson's Before I Wake ~ Reviewed
Before I Wake
by Dee Henderson
Published by Tyndale House
The sheriff of Justice, Illinois, is hunting a killer. Women visiting town are being murdered, tourists in nice hotels, money still in their billfolds, jewelry still on the dresser. Quiet kills - they go to sleep and never awaken. The sheriff is not pleased to find the new detective in town, Rae Gabriella, working the case on behalf of one of the families. She's staying in the same hotel as one of the victims - and her classy looks and upscale car suggest she could be the next victim.
Dee Henderson books have always excelled in several areas. First, her character dialogue moves well. Second, she's great with the whole: protective male rescues (and rescues, and re-rescues) smart but vulnerable female plot line.
This book is very different.
For one thing, Before I Wake has about ten times the layering, twists, and density of her past stories. Henderson does a great job making us wonder 'whodunit' with this book, and offers some intriguing glimpses into the lives of coroners, crime-scene clean-up crews, private detectives, and designer drug "cooks".
The book surprises with an unexpected twist toward the end, and it presents real character struggles with God, faith, and life in an un-canned, un-preachy way.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that what first seems like a slow build in the character dynamics department becomes fizzling potential that never ignites.
Henderson's characters--Nathan, Rae, and Bruce--never seem to progress at all in their relationships. Everything's great and platonic, there's no jealousy, Rae likes them both just as well. The men are both perfect Christian gentlemen. No fire. No sparks. No conflict.
I found myself disgusted with Rae (never a good emotion to feel about a heroine). She dates both men, knowing that these men are good friends with each other, and that they're both interested in her. She's never even honest with herself about what she's doing with their emotions. Tacky.
I was equally frustrated when, by the end of the book, very few of the major plot points had been resolved. If this is a series, then I applaud the cliffhanger, but want to know WHY the book was not marketed as a series, either in print or on Henderson's web site.
If this is not a series then I don't know what to think. There is precious little satisfaction or closure by the last page. The bad guy is still at large, the romantic triangle (if you can even call it that) is not resolved, and we've just read through 381 pages with very little payoff.
Other issues include an infestation of speaker attributions--on many pages characters address each other by name every other line--a number of spelling/grammar errors, and, other than the front cover image and a brief description of Rae's eyes, no real idea what any of the major characters look like. Readers will also note that Rae's eyes are a different color in the book than on the book's cover.
Despite all this, Henderson does a great job making the town of Justice come alive through the story. And the characters have potential. Especially the grandfather who barrels through Justice in his fancy sports car, no matter how many tickets he receives. Now that's an interesting character.
So although the book is a mixed bag, I believe Dee Henderson fans will still find a lot to enjoy.
As for me? I'm waiting for a sequel. One that will answer all that's unresolved and send Nathan and Bruce real women who will wake them up.
Reviewed by Kelli Standish