Friday, May 25, 2007

Dinah McCall's Bloodlines

Mainly Mysteries met last night to discuss Bloodlines by Dinah McCall, writes Jeannine. McCall is a pseudonym for Sharon Sala, who writes romances under her real name, and romantic suspense/thrillers under the McCall name. Bloodlines is the story of the terrifying events that happened when Olivia Sealy was a toddler and how they come back to haunt her 25 years later. When she was two she was kidnapped for ransom, and recovered after the death of her parents. Now in the present, a suitcase containing the remains of a child found in the wall of a cabin is dated to the same time, and a genetic quirk of two thumbs on one hand ties the child to Olivia’s family. The primary mystery is to find out who the child is, what her relationship is to the other Sealys, and how she died. At the same time, a crazed killer focuses on Olivia, bullets fly, rooms go up in flames, all sorts of excitement incurs, and a romance rekindles between Olivia and the detective on the case.

This made for a very good discussion because opinions were all over the place. A few people enjoyed the book immensely; a few couldn’t make it past the first few pages (“after the first few pages, my eyes refused to focus”). Most people liked the first part, but said the story did rather go to pieces by the end. The romance between Olivia and Trey seemed to annoy people more than anything else. The first member to speak said it was too romantic, “life isn’t like that.” Olivia and Trey were high school sweethearts who were split up by her grandfather because Trey was from the “wrong” part of town. They meet again during the investigation and almost immediately fall into each other’s arms as if no time at all had passed. Come again? Members thought there should have been some distance between them from change or maturity that would need to be overcome, not to mention issues of trust (touched on only lightly).

The point found most amazing by two members is that they figured out who the culprit was early into the story. They said each of them is the kind of reader that NEVER figures out who the villain is until the end. Others were equally amazed that the first two figured it out, because they never saw it coming until the end. And absolutely everyone agreed that they could have done without the baby fingernails tidbit, it was, er, um, “overkill,” and completely unnecessary, and we’d like to tear out that page, please.

While we didn’t exactly trash the novel, we were rather exuberant in picking holes in the plot. Several people who enjoyed the book admitted that there were discrepancies, but found that it didn’t matter. They were pulled into the story from the beginning and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. In fact, one person said that on a scale of 1-10 for sheer suspense, she gave it a 10. The rest were not quite so forgiving. SPOILER ALERT!! A big hurdle to overcome was the idea that two toddlers with the same father but a different mother would look so identical that one of the mothers couldn’t tell the difference between them. On which planet? END OF SPOILER ALERT. In addition, ye olde identical twin ploy came into play once again, one crazy, one sane and both unable to recognize each other after 25 years. Fires, though plausible enough, seemed to reoccur rather too often to be more than mere plot devices. Some of the characters did not ring true – Anna was all over the place, from sane to Alzheimer’s to completely whacko; Dennis seemed a totally contrived persona; and Olivia was – I’ll just say it right out – a big wimp (if anything threatening or challenging came up, she had to go off into another room and cry, leaving Trey to do all the work after he’d comforted her, of course). Oh dear, my point of view just sort of took over there, didn’t it?

Moving right along….While discussing implausibilities, one member was struck by the fact that the father (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT!) of the two girls just happened to pick as wife and mistress “two women who look alike, and don’t they all?” I will leave to your imagination how this was interpreted by the rest of the group, but it did take several minutes for some people to pull themselves together and find their chairs after their excursion to the floor. Another person’s favorite character was the man who found the suitcase in his wall. This poor guy had big plans for remodelling the cabin now that he was retired. That was certainly spoiled; he and his wife never went back. But his character was vivid and well drawn, and disappeared after that chapter. Darn. This led us to a rather interesting discussion of architecture and home building – just how much room would have been between the studs? Could you really fit a suitcase inside? We had no definitive answer, just more questions (when was it built, where, etc.).

All in all, it was a quick, easy read with competent, never stylized prose. If you aren’t picky about details and just like being swept along in an exciting story, you’ll probably enjoy it. Don’t forget to go to our blog and register your opinion.

At this point, the discussion broadened to romantic suspense and mysteries in general. Readers of romantic suspense had all noticed that the heroes and heroines are always rich (well, at least one of them), young and beautiful. We tried thinking of titles with more “ordinary” protagonists. Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn. J.A. Jance’s characters. Quite a few names cropped up, and with them a pattern developed. Mysteries often have ordinary (older, heavier, poorer, alcoholic, etc.) characters, but in Romantic Suspense – rich, young and beautiful. For those who would like to see a romance with ordinary people, one member recommended the documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill . While it primarily documents the relationship of a homeless musician with the several flocks of wild parrots in San Francisco, he says it also shows a romance between very real people.

Refreshments were provided by MM members – several kinds of chilli (the story took place in Dallas) and s’mores cookies (which go with any story). Decorations were very minimal – a suitcase and some drywall just didn’t work for me. We had some books on related subjects (DNA, women and mental illness…) and book covers for next month’s selections.


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