Saturday, May 24, 2008

book review: Vengeance by Donna Dawson

Title: Vengeance
Author: Donna Dawson
Publisher: Word Alive Press, Paperback, 248 pages, March 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN-10: 1897373244
ISBN-13: 978-1897373248

When FBI agent James Benedict books a two-week holiday on a cruise ship to Hawaii, he doesn't expect to be working through much of it. But one after another, passengers who are perfectly healthy die painful and grotesque deaths, and he quickly finds himself in the thick of a mystery. Are these deaths caused by a virus that will inevitably infect the whole ship, or a poison targeting a select few? If the latter, is a passenger or crew member the murderer? In Vengeance Donna Dawson weaves a cat-and-mouse tale of death and investigation on the high seas.

Back in San Diego, Benedict's girlfriend, Dr. Julie Holding, fellow member of the FBI and a psychologist, has her own challenges. How will she get traumatized abuse victim, six-year-old Cassandra, to talk again, let alone trust a man? Her nightly conversations with James are sweet therapy for both of them, until the deadly plot begins to engulf him too. Will she be next?

The plot smells sinister right from its chilling Nunavut "Prelude." The cruise ship setting of most of the story, with its atmosphere of vacationing passengers immersed in relaxation and amenities, is a perfect foil for the gruesome death that stalks the ship. The plot plays out like a movie as we segue from one action scene to another, following James, then the killer, looking in on James's boss Steve in San Diego's FBI headquarters, even flashing occasionally to the dark mastermind in his bunker on shore.

Though the sleuthing makes steady progress, it continues to lag one step behind the criminals till the end, when even our seasoned investigator is shocked by who the perpetrator turns out to be. The romantic sub-plot adds a human touch and gives us a break from the tense on-board scenes.

Main character James Benedict is drawn realistically, though to be honest I was far more involved in following the plot than getting to know him - competent investigator and lovelorn swain that he is. Ditto for his sweety, Julie Holding. The most interesting of the characters was Nam, the shadowy figure who haunts the tale from its beginning and who shows himself to be a genius in loyalty, obsession and evil.

Dawson's crisp writing style and cryptic dialogue fit this action-packed tale. Her story-telling instincts are evident throughout as we get just the right amount of information and at the right time to keep the story a tantalizing bob and weave till the end.

The desire for vengeance is an idea that not only generates the plot, but is the theme that flows through plot and subplot too. Nam answers his need for revenge one way. Little Cassandra, with Julie's guidance, arrives at an entirely different answer on how to handle hideous evil, fleshing out the Bible saying, "A little child shall lead them."

Vengeance is a suspense thriller that will put you in an oblivious-to-time space. Just block off an afternoon to read the whole thing - because you won't be able to put it down anyway.

Donna Dawson 's web site


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