Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Runaway by Anne Laughlin

Publisher:         Bold Strokes Books

Jan Roberts and Maddy Harrington have something in common.  They’re both runaways.  The difference is that Jan escaped years ago from her father’s survival camp in Idaho so that she could have a more normal life.  Now she’s a private investigator in Chicago who is hired to find a naïve, wealthy girl who ran away from parents and a life she hated to create what she thought was going to be a utopia.  Just as Jan begins the case, the company she works for is sold to a British security firm and she gets a new boss.  Catherine Engstrom is a former British government agent with some secrets of her own and there is a powerful attraction between them. 

Jan has to deal with two dilemmas.  She’s not used to trusting other people and she doesn’t want to trust Catherine, but she can’t help herself, even when she finds out that Catherine is forbidden fruit.  At the same time, the hunt for Maddy is taking the women into Idaho among the militia groups and survivalists that Jan wants desperately to avoid.  Both situations pose great danger for Jan.

Runaway starts as a very strong book, then dies at the end.  The prologue has a real hook to draw the reader into the story as Jan struggles to escape from her father’s control.  That edge continues into the rest of the book as Laughlin alternates between scenes of Jan and Catherine looking for Maddy and those of what Maddy is experiencing.  It becomes clear quickly that Maddy has involved herself in something entirely different from what she was expecting and the reader is allowed to feel her disillusionment as it mounts.  Likewise, Jan’s confusion about her feelings for Catherine and her concerns about possibly confronting her father again come through very strongly and add tension to what is going on.   The fact that there are some passionate scenes between Jan and Catherine doesn’t hurt the book.

In the last forty pages though, the book goes flat.  It’s like a balloon that someone has suddenly let the air out of.  The tension is mounting and things are headed for a climax and then everything becomes totally unbelievable and even trite.  Everything suddenly ends, everyone goes home and that’s it.  Anne Laughlin is a better writer than this.  The reader might almost think that she was running out of time for a deadline, so decided just to cut the book off.  It’s unfortunate because, up to that point, she had an interesting book.

Runaway is fine for entertaining reading……except for the end.  It isn’t a waste of the reader’s time, but once you see what the book could have been, the conclusion is that much more disappointing.  Read this one with caution.

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