TELL ME WHEN IT HURTS by Christine M. Whitehead


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A trained government assassin turned suburban lawyer turned vigilante killer (after her daughter is murdered) and the Wyoming sheep rancher she comes to love.

Archer Loh is living alone with her dog, Hadley, in virtual seclusion after her daughter’s murder and her subsequent divorce. Yet slowly and patiently she discovers new love and a second chance with Connor McCall, a financial baron who has a thing for sheep and a daughter he’s never met. As the story unfolds, readers get glimpses of Archer’s present-day life juxtaposed with a past that includes her clueless college-sweetheart husband; her double life training as an assassin while posing as a Justice Department employee; and how she joined a mysterious vigilante association known as the Group after her child’s brutal death. Whitehead is obviously a fan of the romantic thriller, and she has the genre’s pacing, rhythms and beats down pat. She knows that the only way to get away with unconventional melodrama is by grounding her characters in details plucked from real life. Lines like “She could hear him jingle a few coins in his jacket pocket” and “Cassie was about sixty, with a tight perm in her blue-gray hair” give the reader a strong sense of character, enough to forgive the ludicrousness of its comics-worthy plot. She wards off reader disbelief with explanations like, “They were generous with their help and seemed perfectly comfortable with the idea that someone, somewhere, felt she needed to be there. That was enough for them,” as an answer to how macho men at a boot camp for trained killers would put up with a petite innocent like Archer. Additionally, Whitehead’s passion for moment-to-moment storytelling heightens the book’s suspense and romantic intrigue. The author takes her time with the procedural specifics, such as when Archer makes a total of six stops to dispose of evidence after her first solo hit for the Group, and doesn’t even allow her protagonists to fall into bed together until the long courtship hits its climax. Whitehead savors the sweetness of fiction like a fine wine.

A romantic-thriller that sounds over-the-top but is written with just enough specifics to suspend our disbelief.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9822946-0-4
Program: Kirkus Indie
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