Saturday, August 20, 2011

Threads of Destiny by J.P. Mercer

Publisher:              P. D. Publishing

The idea of reading the second edition of a book I was already familiar with never made much sense in the past. If you already know the story, what is the point? However, word was that there were significant changes in this new edition, both through new words and a thorough editing, so I decided I should read it and I learned a valuable lesson. When an author revisits her work and teams up with a talented editor, a good book can be made even better and show more depth than before.

Threads of Destiny is the story of Cara Cipriano, a lawyer and vintner in Santa Barbara, and Jake Biscayne, a leading FBI forensic pathologist and profiler. Mercer and Nancy Hill first introduced their story in Incommunicado; however, through a skillful use of flashbacks and inventive dialogue, Mercer provides enough of the original story in this volume that it is not necessary to have read the first book to follow the action. The women fell in love while they were working together to solve a string of brutal murders along the Mexican border, only to have their relationship ripped apart by a tragedy that Cara could not cope with and Jake knew nothing about.  
Threads of Destiny reunites them a year later when Cara returns to take over as padrone of the family vineyard and discovers that someone is using the business to smuggle drugs across the border. When she asks the government for help, she and Jake are brought together in an uncomfortable situation while they try to solve the crime. Two stories then unfold in the book. One is a mystery and adventure story about the drug running that eventually includes kidnapping and a dramatic conclusion. Simultaneously, Cara and Jake struggle to deal with their emotions and whether or not they can rebuild the relationship they once had. Not until the very last page is that question answered and the reader cannot be certain of the answer until then.

There are a number of things to like about Mercer's writing. Even though it is fiction, the characters ring true as actual people. Women usually don't fall in love immediately in life and they sometimes hurt each other. Jake can't forgive Cara immediately for deserting her even after she learns the reason for Cara's actions, and she shouldn't. You almost find yourself hoping that Jake will fall for a new interest, McKenzie, even though you know the pain that Cara suffers because of her actions. The frustration of Jake, the despair of Cara, and the pure evil of Sandro the drug runner/murderer come off of the pages powerfully. Mercer is very deft at keeping you on the edge of just not being sure how these stories will resolve themselves until they are finished. The dialogue from other languages, with no translations, shows the respect that Mercer has for her reader being able to infer the meaning from the story. The knowledge of the wine making process, forensic details, and the inside dealing of the cocaine trade indicate a book that was thoroughly researched.

Mercer's writing is very tight. No wasted scenes or words distract the reader from the action and emotion that drive the stories. Secondary characters add color and dimension to the book, like Cara's childhood friend and would be lover, Maggie; Matt Peyson, the Federal agent who loves Jake, but knows he has to look elsewhere for happiness; McKenzie, the alluring woman who has feelings for both Cara and Jake; and Sandro, evil incarnate, the childhood friend of Jake and Matt who has betrayed their love for him and who is the killer determined to make Cara pay for interfering in his business. They combine to create a world that feels all too real. Mercer has created one of those books that is hard to put down once you have started it.

The original version of Threads of Destiny had a very short life in the bookstores, so P.D. Publishing has done readers a service in bringing it back in an improved form. Now readers will have the chance to discover a book that deserves their notice.

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