Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Ransom River

Summary: A stunningly complex and atmospheric crime novel from Edgar Award–winning author Meg Gardiner, Ransom River features a deeply flawed, compelling heroine, a murder trial, and the long-unsolved mystery it exposes.
Rory Mackenzie is juror number seven on a high-profile murder case in her hometown of Ransom River, California. It’s a place she vowed never to visit again, after leaving behind its surfeit of regret and misfortune and the specter of a troubled past that threatened to disturb the town’s peaceful façade.

Brilliant yet guarded, Rory has always felt like an outsider. She retreated into herself when both her career aspirations and her love affair with a childhood friend, undercover cop Seth Colder, were destroyed in a tragic accident.

While most of the town is focused on the tense and shocking circumstances of the trial, Rory’s return to Ransom River dredges up troubling memories from her childhood that she can no longer ignore. But in the wake of a desperate attack on the courthouse, Rory realizes that exposing these dark skeletons has connected her to an old case that was never solved, and bringing the truth to light just might destroy her.

Departing from her popular series novels, Meg Gardiner has gone deeper than ever into the utterly convincing lives and compelling pasts of her characters.
Ransom River is an intimate crime thriller with a dark mystery at its heart—one that will keep readers breathless until the very last page. -- Dutton

When I first read the description for RANSOM RIVER by Meg Gardiner, my interest was immediately piqued. First of all, I'm always on the lookout for new mystery/thriller books to review as part of Mystery Mondays. Secondly, I like it when a book of this genre has a female lead. And lastly, I have heard such wonderful things about Meg Gardiner as a writer, and I'm been wanting to give one of her books a try. It just seemed ideal that RANSOM RIVER was a stand-alone novel, and I didn't have to start her award-winning series in the middle. (Not that that's stopped me before, but my Type A personality still prefers to read things in order!)

RANSOM RIVER tells the story of Rory Mackenzie, a woman who has returned home to Ransom River, California, after the funding for her overseas charity job has been eliminated. Ransom River wasn't someplace Rory thought she'd ever return to because it had so many bad memories for her. She fled years ago after a horrific car accident that ended her chances of her dream job, and Ransom River was also a painful reminder of her ex-boyfriend Seth and their devastating break-up. Needless to say, Rory isn't exactly in a "good place."

The book begins with Rory serving as a juror on a huge murder case; and almost immediately, the action skyrockets when two armed gunmen barge into the courtroom and take hostages. The siege goes horribly wrong and the SWAT team eventually rescues Rory, but not before the loss of some lives. As Rory reflects back on the incident, she begins to realize that she might have been the actual target of the attack.

And that's when the real action of the book begins! Rory, with the help of her ex Seth, tries to figure out how all of the pieces of this mystery come together -- especially since the police department think she's involved in the siege and want to arrest her. Rory is forced to revisit many painful memories from her past including the mysterious disappearance of her uncle, her parents' secrecy on the matter, as well as the bad blood between herself and her cousins.

RANSOM RIVER was an exciting read and it encompassed much of what I enjoy about thrillers. There was a great deal of action and intrigue, and I honestly didn't know what was coming next. I had pretty much no idea about the mystery aspects of this story (and there were a lot!), and I was definitely surprised by how the story played out. I especially appreciated how the author brought back elements of the story that appeared earlier in the novel and brought everything full circle. There is no doubt that Ms. Gardiner knows her way around writing a suspenseful novel!

One thing that definitely stood out to me about RANSOM RIVER was how well written the action scenes were. And I think that was very important because there were so many intense scenes in this novel. I was really impressed with the pacing and the vivid descriptions of both the courtroom attack and the (I don't want to spoil this with a description!) scenes at the end of the story. I actually could picture every move the characters were making as well as the setting where these scenes occurred.

In addition, I was impressed that RANSOM RIVER was more than just an action-packed thriller. As good as these parts of the story were, this novel also explored Rory and her issues from the past -- and it actually touched upon some very serious issues. There were some very weird dynamics between Rory and her cousins that I found interesting (to say the least), but there were also some scenes with Rory and her parents that were very poignant. I know I say this a lot, but in many ways, RANSOM RIVER was a coming-of-age story for Rory. She definitely need some closure on some painful events from her past before she could actually move on with her life away from Ransom River.

RANSOM RIVER was my first experience with a Meg Gardiner novel, but it surely won't be my last. I recommend this novel to fans of the mystery/thriller genre who appreciate a little more depth with the characters.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Serena said...

Sounds like a good one.

bermudaonion said...

That sounds very exciting! I want to block out everything else when I read a book like that. Great review!!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

awesome, i'm also always looking for more crime books! sounds great. ;)

Carol said...

Sounds like one I would defnitely enjoy. I love a thriller that has a little extra depth to it.