Not a Moment Too Soon
by Linda O. Johnston
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1331, $4.99 PG) ISBN 0-373-27401-7
***
Author Linda Johnston makes her first appearance in the Intimate Moments series with a paranormal suspense novel. Shauna O’Leary, as the first daughter of the first daughter, etc. is gifted with the paranormal insight of automatic writing.

For the uninitiated, automatic writing is described as having an uncontrollable urge to write a story while in a fugue-like state with no ability to change the ending. Shauna had worked with the Phoenix Police Department years ago and was Detective Hunter Strahm’s lover. Realist and skeptic, Hunter was unable to accept Shauna’s ability, scoffed at her talent and ignored a tip from her, which ultimately drummed him out of the police department and her life.

Escaping to Los Angeles, he married an aspiring actress, fathered a child, divorced, and five years later is the subject of another story Shauna has automatically written. This one shows the kidnapping and ultimate death of his daughter Andee. Shauna is still close to Hunter’s mother, who resides in the same small town of Oasis, and she hurries over to warn her.

The kidnapping part of the story is true and Hunter stops by on his way back to LA from a business trip to see his mother and to question Shauna about her story. He persists in reading it and tries every technical means available to save the story with a different ending on her lab top computer.

He insists Shauna travel with him to California, believing that if he even changes small parts of the story that the rest will unfold differently. Having Shauna with him, of course, adds an additional player to her story.

Based on Shauna’s story, but disbelieving it at the same time, Hunter starts with the presumption that either he or his ex-wife knows the kidnapper. As the story evolves, for the first time in Shauna’s life of writing, small changes occur as small events are changed but the ending always remains the same.

One must suspend disbelief for the entire reading of the story with respect to the kidnapping and search plot. The author does a really good job of making Hunter an unfeeling ingrate who is in constant conflict about his feelings for Shauna.

Shauna, on the other hand, has become a psychologist and is far too understanding and forgiving. The beginning and end are fast paced with a middle that sags a bit as Shauna and Hunter keep trying to change the ending. The tension is well sustained, and the secondary characters are fairly well developed. The story has a very wide streak of creativity, with the weakness the interaction of the principal characters.

It was never persuasive for me.

--Thea Davis


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