Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CFBA Tour - Over the Edge

Glad to finally beat Blogger at its own game and get back into my own blog (being locked out for a day stinks).

I'm helping out with the CFBA Tour this week, and we're featuring Brandilyn Collins and her latest suspense, Over The Edge.

Brandilyn Collins is a prolific writer (working on her 20th book) who has created a strong following of her Seatbelt Suspense (meaning: you'd better strap yourselves in). She's a great fiction mentor as well, and her blog Forensics and Faith is a great resource for fiction writers.
Over The Edge follows Janessa McNeil, the wife of a prominent doctor and medical researcher at Stanford. She stays at home, taking care of their 9 year old daughter Lauren.

After fighting flu-like symptoms for several weeks, she wakes up one day with baffling symptoms: confusion, fatigue, weakness in her legs. She falls in the kitchen and can barely pull herself upright. Her joints ache and she gets episodes where she feels she's suffocating.

Getting sick is bad enough, but she receives a mysterious phone call.

Someone claims to have infected her with Lyme disease.

Dr. McNeil is a leading researcher in the field of Lyme disease, and he's published official reports denying the existence of chronic Lyme disease. Most experts believe Lyme disease can be cured with a month's worth of antibiotics, but a group of patients and doctors contend there is a deeper possible infection. Janessa's stalker wants her to convince her husband to change his mind, or he'll continue infecting victims - starting with their daughter.

Janessa is faced with a huge challenge to overcome the marital issues they already battle, along with her worsening symptoms and the fear that a small tick could strike her daughter at any time. Her will is strong, but can her weakened body hold out?
Brandilyn is a master of suspense. She has proved it in many prior novels. She also has experience with this subject, because she has battled Lyme infection in the past. You can go to her website and read her testimony of being healed from it.

The reader is sucked in from the first chapter, as we follow the stalker on his first contact with Janessa (or Jannie). She uses language strategically, and she certainly paints a picture of someone who is very sick. As a reader, you feel what Jannie is going through.

Unfortunately, the length of the book and the slow pace of actual action drag it down. Jannie is a sympathetic character, but it gets hard in the middle to constantly live in her viewpoint of confusion and sickness. She can't do much, and it bogs things down. There is the occasional point of view of inspector Jud Maxwell, but these are too few to provide enough counter to the battle of her illness. Her husband is a very unsympathetic character, and his extreme callous behavior is a turn-off as well.
The last few chapters pick up the pace and bring the book home to a mostly satisfying conclusion. Her suspense skills are allowed to shine once there is mortal danger.

The book is a good read. Brandilyn is a skilled writer, and there are many positives. I have a few issues with this book though:
  • She's done better. This just isn't her best work.
  • She wants to educate people about the possibility of chronic Lyme disease. The agenda weighs the story down, especially during a few pages of explanation that become didactic over entertaining.
  • Jannie's viewpoint when battling sickness is potent initially, but has a hard time carrying the middle of the book.
As a disclaimer, I should say that I am a physician assistant. I see the research that doesn't support chronic Lyme. However, in hearing Brandilyn's story and meeting a couple of patients who claim to have it, I don't have a hard and fast opinion. I know medicine is growing in knowledge, and I'm not ready to discount it. Still, I understand the arguments of Dr. McNeil in a different light than the average reader. I've thought carefully about this review though, and I think my issues are not from the controversial subject itself.

Overall, fans of Brandilyn's prior suspense will find a familiar read with episodes of her trademark roller coster rides. There is interesting information about an evolving field. As a health care provider, I am reminded to show empathy even if I don't fully understand what the patient is dealing with. If you're looking for a Brandilyn Collins book to start with, I would recommend Violet Dawn or Exposure as better examples of her skill and talent.

Legal mumbo jumbo: I received this book free from the publisher for review purposes, without obligation regarding my opinion. There you go lawyers.

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