DAW / 464 pages / 1st printing edition (May 1, 1998)
Call them “beach reads” or “guilty pleasures” — you can’t call them literary classics — but you can enjoy them. Accurately described as “terror and supernatural suspense,” they serve up the blend of suspense, sex, psychos, and betrayal that keeps readers coming back for more. They’re perfect plane books; no matter how much the grandmother from Des Moines next to you natters on about her ailments, you can’t lose the thread of the plot.
Elizabeth Forrest is an old hand at this sub-genre with six bestsellers to her credit. Her fans and those discovering her for the first time won’t be disappointed with Retribution. It’s got everything readers have come to expect: a frail, imperilled heroine; a rugged love interest, a touch of the paranormal, and a seemingly normal nutcase out to get the loving couple.
Charlie Saunders was a child prodigy of the art world. What only those closest to her knew was the inspiration behind her stunning canvasses. After the death of her father, terrifying dreams came to disturb her sleep. The name she gave to the terror was Midnight. The fear and the dreams she exorcised by splashing them out on canvas. Who knew the by-product of her self-prescribed therapy would be success, fame, and wealth?
And who knew that a brain tumour was fostering her genius? And threatening her young life?
The cure was a good-news-bad-news situation. Surgery saved her life, but left her weakened and physically impaired. Removal of the tumour excised her need and desire to paint. Now an adult, Charlie has made commercial art her career, and found a measure of happiness.
But Midnight has returned. And with it, the threat to Charlie’s life that is never far from her thoughts.
Forrest has created an intriguing tale that will keep readers glued to the pages. She fills her pages with interesting characters, if somewhat two-dimensional once the story moves outside the central players. Charlie’s mother remains little more than a protective worry-wart. A business client promises an interesting subplot, but is never fully explored. Overall, it is Charlie and her lover’s story, and the focus remains on them. It’s quite possible that that’s as far as it needs to extend, but getting to understand the eventual villain would explain much.
It’s not a straight path to the climax, though. Readers will know more about such diverse subjects as companion dogs, medical residencies, and the business of art than they brought to the book.
It’s undeniable entertainment. It’s also undeniably not a mind-stretcher. But, isn’t that sometimes just what you’re looking for? A good, rapid-fire read that grips your attention until the last page. After volumes of hard SF and wild experiments in literature, it’s nice to just sit down and simply devour a book.