CFBA Blog Tour –Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins

brandilyncollins5I suspect, if you do much blog hopping, you’ll come across other authors featuring Brandilyn Collins’s newest book, Dark Pursuit (Zondervan). In which case, you’ll probably see her author photo—the one on her Web site, blog, and books. Well, there’s considerably more to Brandilyn than that rather artsy, staid profile—as you can see in this photo taken this past March at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference autograph party. Or this one earlier in the week when I was preparing for the mentoring class in the lounge and found Brandilyn hard at work there, too.

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All this to say, Brandilyn is one of the most gracious, fun, helpful, giving people I’ve met in this writing business. Not to mention that she is one talented lady. I respect her ability as a writer and have learned so much from her, at conferences and on her blog. She continues to be generous with her time despite an incredible writing schedule, made more incredible with the addition of several young adult novels she wrote in conjunction with her daughter this year on top of her regular adult suspense.

But none of this is about Dark Pursuit, and that’s what I’ve promised to write about as a member of CFBA.

For as long as I can remember, Brandilyn has referred to her novels as Seatbelt Suspense. As anyone who has hung around A Christian Worldview of Fiction for long knows, I’m not a big fan of suspense. But, as you might suspect, I am a big fan of Brandilyn Collins. Consequently, I broke down and read one of her books, then another, and another until I’d read all of her Kanner Lake series and several of her earlier novels. And none of them gave this Big Honkin’ Chicken any trouble. I could read them at night, alone, whatever, and never did I have a nightmare or any untoward emotions that made me question my decision to read another Collins. Until Dark Pursuit.

Here is a book filled with danger and suspense—the slasher-movie kind where you want to bonk the stupid girl yourself for walking out into the dark alone at night to investigate the strange sound she hears in the woods. Brandilyn’s characters were properly motivated, but time and again they took tacks that led them into the heart of danger, and frankly, I came to a point where I would not read the book at night any longer.

For those who love suspense, I’d call this a home run.

But I have two things against it.

The first has to do with “Spiritual Themes and Content.” I felt this book would have been much better if it had been called clean suspense rather than Christian suspense. The spiritual element felt painfully forced onto the story, for no apparent reason, and I didn’t find it particularly believable.

The protagonist supposedly had come to God as part of a twelve-step program after having spent jail time because of her drug addiction. Nevertheless, she got pregnant by her boyfriend, who turns out to be an abusive killer, and lies about having any family in the area because she’s in a grudge match with her grandfather.

Hmmm. Her Christianity doesn’t seem to have taught her forgiveness. Or given her any discernment, put her into a good circle of friends (does she go to church?), or influenced her moral decisions (she wants to keep the baby because she wants to give it love, not because of any idea of obeying God). In addition, she rarely (ever?) prays when she’s in desperate straits. I’m not sure I see a story reason why she is a Christian.

The second problematic area for me was the end. As I said, this story was incredibly suspenseful. I couldn’t help asking myself why I thought this one was so much more frightening than other Collins novels. I could be wrong, but what I came up with was that in Dark Pursuit I knew early on who to fear. In other stories, ones which were sort of suspense/mystery combinations and I didn’t know for sure who the perpetrator was, I didn’t feel fearful for the character when she was most in danger. In this story I did.

That’s not the problematic part. In her characteristic style, Brandilyn introduces several twists at the end, but I found those to be unnecessary, even implausible, and they didn’t add to the sense of danger.

Let me qualify that. The major twist seemed implausible. Another significant twist enhanced the description of the other main character, crusty grandfather Darell Brooke. In particular, I found him to be well drawn and extremely believable. In many ways, this is really his story. I can only wish it was more so. But helpless girls make better victims for suspense, I suppose.

I’m beginning to think that’s what I have against this genre.

For you suspense fans, be sure to pick up a copy of Dark Pursuit. This book will have you holding your breath.

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 Comments

  1. Oh Becky! A fresh look at Brandilyn Collin’s latest! I got so caught up in the moment I didn’t really consider the angles you mention here. However, looking back at the read, you really are dead on in your opinion. Good call! Great review!

    I really want to meet Brandilyn some day! She seems like such a wonderful lady!

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  2. Brandilyn is a wonderful lady, a top writer and a quality person. I think the world of her. I keep thinking, Man, I wish she wrote something besides suspense! 🙂

    I know she’s branded in, so I have to either get over my hesitation to read suspense or give up her books. What a choice!

    Becky

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  3. And I ask you, does that first picture look like someone who could write a book entitled Dark Pursuit?!! 😮

    Becky

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  4. I didn’t feel the same about the Christianity. Seemed beleivable to me knowing her circumstances–coming off the street/drugs, spending time in jail, and not having anyone besides herself at a mere 20 years old with which to embrace her newfound faith. Yes, she certainly needs more, but 12-Step programs only teach the “Higher Power” thing unless it’s the Christian 12-Step program. So the way I saw it she was inching her way to a knowledge of and relationship with Jesus and in so doing would learn the error of her ways and the forgiveness, etc. I though it was done well considering the character.

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  5. Nicole, I actually had that same attitude toward her most of the way. It bothered me that she had slept with her boyfriend and was pregnant, especially when I found out what kind of a man he was. But I justified it because she was obviously an immature believer.

    The point that jolted me out of compassion for her was the brief exchange she and Margaret had about spiritual things. She basically said, Yeah, I don’t need to hear that stuff because I’ve already done it. There was actually a chance for a little more depth there, but because it was so quickly and easily passed over, it just made the whole subject seem like an after-thought.

    Not to mention that Margaret seemed to be portrayed as a more mature Christian, but I didn’t see her faith changing much of anything in her life and relationships. She made foolishly dangerous decisions, inexplicably got lost, caved in when forceful Darell yelled, stood up to him when she was making her most dangerous decision, withheld information, fell short of pursuing her best ideas … and prayed for help a little. No thought about calling a pastor or a Christian friend for advice or prayer. In other words, her Christianity just didn’t seem to matter to the story.

    I say again, I have no problem with clean fiction. If the story didn’t have one single Christian character but was not graphic with the violence and didn’t have bad language (there was no sex), I’d like it better than a story that had those things.

    But certainly, those “clean” elements do not make the story Christian. Nor does giving a character a token conversion as part of the backstory, as far as I’m concerned.

    Just my view.

    Becky

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