The megaselling writer of just-folks tearjerkers (Nights in Rodanthe, not reviewed, etc.) tries his hand at suspense—with lackluster results.
Her husband lost his fight against brain cancer, leaving Julie Barenson a young widow, and she still doesn’t quite know what to do with her life. But the Great Dane puppy that arrived shortly after Jim’s death, along with a suitably sentimental note, has grown up into her best pal (and guardian, just like Jim, who, the reader is assured, is watching over Julie from heaven). Now that Julie is finally ready to date, she finds slim pickings in Swansboro, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks. There’s Mike, an amiable jack-of-all-trades, failed musician, and the younger brother of Jim’s best friend—but not exactly ambitious. Still, Julie’s background hardly allows her to be too picky: she’s the daughter of an alcoholic, single, oversexed mother without two nickels to rub together. Then Richard Franklin, a consulting engineer on the Intracoastal Waterway, comes in to get his hair cut at the beauty shop. Julie dates him a few times, but there’s something odd about him. He’s awfully jealous, though he hardly knows her. And controlling. No one knows that he grew up in horrible circumstances: viciously battered by his drunken father, he hides a murderous rage at everything. Years ago, the cops thought his father’s death from carbon monoxide poisoning was an accident . . . and no one saw his son spit into his father’s grave. Foster care only hardened the boy, who beat up anyone who crossed him, attacked his college roommates, killed his first wife, assumed the identity of a man he murdered by the side of a lonely road . . . . Gee, could he be the guy who’s stalking Julie? Mike decides he’d better protect her. “Richard” is so nasty he might even shoot her dog. Julie endures the stalking and whatnot for a while, until the plot limps to its predictable conclusion.
Tame thriller, simply written—but Sparks’s name should sell it.