The Alibi

Envy

Ricochet

Standoff

Smoke Screen

The Switch

Unspeakable

White Hot

 
Smash Cut
by Sandra Brown
(Simon & Schuster, $26.95, PG-13) ISBN  978-1-41656-308-2
****
With a title that is a reference to the film industry, readers won't be surprised that there are many of the same throughout the novel.  The presentation of them, however, delivers a punch.

The villain—or alleged villain—of the novel, Creighton Wheeler, is a spoiled rich boy next in line to inherit his uncle Paul Wheeler's fortune.  Naturally, the police look to him first when Paul is assassinated leaving a hotel with his elegant constant companion, gallery owner Julie Rutledge.  When Creighton's alibi proves to be rock-solid, the detectives on the case move to Julie Rutledge, who is not perhaps as heartbroken as she should be considering the circumstances.  Defense attorney Derek Mitchell knows that all too well: Julie seduced him on a non-stop flight from Paris just to ensure that Derek felt a conflict of interest when the Wheelers approached him to be their attorney.

To call Julie's and Creighton's relationship antagonistic would be an understatement.  Though Julie remains adamant that she loved Paul and would never have intentionally harmed him, her actions before, during, and after his murder were shady at best.  Julie is just as certain that Creighton is behind the murder, even if he didn't physically commit the crime himself.  After a few run-ins of his own with the cocky millionaire, Derek begins to suspect that Julie is right about that at least and is equally convinced that his reasons behind that are not entirely stimulated by their growing relationship.  Creighton himself manages to appear squeaky clean, but Julie recognizes the movie references in the break-ins and various interactions between the two of them, and knows Creighton's love for movies is more important to him than anything else in the world ... except his ego.

Genuinely entertaining though it doesn't move too quickly, Smash Cut is another colorful feather for Brown's bonnet. Even though readers know early on who the killer—or killers—is, her delivery and the course of the plotline keep the novel suspenseful.  Not only that, but it's the first romantic suspense I've read in a long time where there was also some suspense to the romance itself—given the nature of Julie's and Derek's introduction, this is natural, and despite said meeting, the relationship itself never feels forced.

Smash Cut was a great summer thriller, but for those just coming into Sandra Brown's latest, it's also a good way to escape from the oncoming winter.

--Sarrah Knight


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