by Susan Squires, contemporary (2003)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52566-6
Ah, Susan Squires. It's true that no other contemporary romances like her, not at this time of writing. No More Lies, like the author's previous book Body Electric, isn't a straightforward romantic suspense as much as it is a techno-scientific thriller. Unfortunately, the author makes a mistake that will be comical if it doesn't affect the credibility of the story. This mistake doesn't undermine the flow of the story, but for someone like me that has worked with DNAs for way too long, it's at first an amusing mistake. And when this mistake ends up being linked to the villain, I really have to laugh. The guy I jokingly pegs as the villain at first ends up really being the villain. Oops, so much for suspense, huh?
The book starts out like a too-serious take on that bad horror movie Idle Hands, where Dr Holland Banks is having a bad dream where her hand is trying to kill her. Soon, I am told that she hears voices in her head in addition to having those dreams and she also feels that she is being stalked. Oh, and she's the head of the Century Psychiatric Hospital. Insert your own punchline here - Ms Squires makes it way too easy. Eventually, she comes into contact with her stalker, Jeff McQueen, and she realizes that he too shares the same mental baggages as she. Someone wants one or both of them dead. What is going on? As they both try to figure out the answer, the plot becomes more complicated as it drives straight into issues like genes and evolution.
On one level, I really enjoy No More Lies. From the author's bio, her education background is in business, arts, and English, which solidifies my admiration for Ms Squires' handling the story so deftly that her theories come off as credible and her conspiracy theories have me at the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, if I do examine her theories a little deeper, I can find a few large loopholes. But hey, I can find loopholes in Phillip K Dick's works too and that doesn't stop Hollywood from making movies out of his books, so more power to Ms Squires in this case.
But let's talk about that Mistake. [spoiler starts] Early on, Holland explains to her father, when he asks her to, what junk DNA is. This has me laughing, really, because every first year medical or science student will know what junk DNA is, and therefore as a very active researcher of his calibre, there is no good reason as to why Leland Banks will ever need to ask Holland what junk DNA is. "He's the villain!" I tell myself, and what do you know, he turns out to be the villain after all. Sheesh. Which brings me to my second peeve in this story: why must it always be a crazy scientist behind everyone's troubles? What an overused plot device. It is quite disappointing that after the somewhat original (for a romance novel, especially) plot build-up, the author has to resort to familiar villain stereotypes to close her story. [spoiler ends]
Holly is a well-written heroine that comes off well despite the plot never letting her show a lighter side to her personality until the last chapter. Jeff, however, is a little less well-developed and I'm not too fond of his rather overpowering come-ons to Holland, but he'll do, I guess. At least he doesn't ask what junk DNA is.
However, because the author amps up the suffocating paranoia in her story, the characters come off as distant because I do not know much about or actually feel for them. This is the main reason why I choose not to give a higher grade to this book. It's a good read and certainly one of the books you should take note of if you want to read something suspenseful that is a little reminiscent of Fox Mulder's paranoid conspiracy theories and one that is different from the usual serial killer fare.
Put those vampire and Viking stories on the backburner, Ms Squires, and write some more books like this one. It's about time we have some good old romantic science-fiction thrillers in the romance genre.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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