Maddy's Reviews > Suspicious Circumstances

Suspicious Circumstances by Sandra Ruttan
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Nov 25, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2007-reads
Read in January, 2007

PROTAGONIST: Lara Kelly, reporter, and Ty Farraday, police detective
SETTING: Connecticut
SERIES: Debut novel
RATING: 3.5

When a local man approaches reporter Larimer Kelly with a videotape showing a young woman plunging over the edge of a cliff, Lara has no idea whether she is viewing a suicide, murder or accident. It's no surprise to her that when Duane Brodie tried to share the video with the police, they were completely uninterested. It's common knowledge that the department is corrupt, and highly likely that someone is trying to protect themselves by ignoring the tape. What IS surprising is that one of the detectives, Tymen Farraday, is assigned to work on the case after Lara's story appears in the paper and that he and Lara are able to build an uneasy alliance between them. In fact, over time, they begin to trust one another and work together to uncover a complex web of crimes and misadventure that go far beyond the death of one woman.

There were plenty of interesting plot threads to follow throughout the book; but unfortunately, Ruttan went completely overboard in trying to create a complex narrative. Some of the sub-plots included corruption of the police department, dysfunctional families, power plays at the hands of unsavory prestigious local figures, drug dealing, rapes, shooting of porn movies, murders of prostitutes and the budding romance of Lara and Ty. Ultimately, I lost the path that explained the connections among all these disparate elements. Although the lead characters were well drawn, most of the secondary characters, in particular the "bad guys", were one dimensional. It felt like a cast of thousands, and I had difficulty keeping them straight and remembering what made each of them unique. Add in an incredible number of people being attacked and killed, and I was rather overwhelmed.

Suspicious Circumstances is the debut effort of Sandra Ruttan. Despite the deficiencies listed above, she clearly has the talent to be very successful in the future. It's perhaps more fair to focus on the things that she does right. I appreciated the fact that she steered away from making the relationship between Kelly and Farraday full of romantic and sexual tension right from the start. Instead, she let that aspect build over the course of the narrative and never let it completely resolve by the time the book ended. Due to their past experiences, they were both understandably leery about becoming involved. In addition, I really enjoyed how she treated the role of the journalist working with cops in a way that was realistic and thoughtful. Although Lara was involved in the investigation, she never stepped over the line into becoming a cop herself.

If Ruttan can work on tighter plotting and concentrate on building that plot around fewer characters, I think that she will achieve great things in the future. Although I've only provided a rating of average, I see the potential for far more.

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