Whenever I look for a new author to read, one thing I’m sure to check is how many published works the author has to his or her name. Granted, that doesn’t always mean much in and of itself (just ask Harper Lee), but for the most part, it usually indicates that an author sells well enough to justify the publishing expenses. Authors that sell well probably have some talent and some interesting stories to tell, which makes me all the more willing to roll the dice on their books. Authors that publish entire series are even more attractive to me for obvious reasons.
Thus when I came across a bunch of Catherine Coulter FBI books at my library recently, I was intrigued enough to check out a few. Little did I know that Coulter is more renowned as a romance writer than anything else — otherwise, I probably would have skipped this terribly lame attempt at a “thriller”.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Sally Brainard is on the run after her high-powered attorney father was found murdered in his home. Sally can’t remember a single thing that happened on the night of the murder, and doesn’t want to risk being taken in as a suspect. So she heads off to the most obscure place she can think of: a little town called The Cove on the Oregon coast, where she hopes to take refuge with her Aunt Amabel.
Unfortunately, things don’t get any better for Sally at The Cove. Indeed, she starts hearing odd screams in the middle of the night and receiving threatening phone calls from her dead father. Surely she must be going crazy. After all, isn’t that what everyone thought of her anyway after spending six months in a sanitarium? To make matters worse, Aunt Amabel doesn’t exactly dispel the notion that Sally is losing her mind. There were no screams, it was just the wind. That wasn’t her father on the phone, it was a woman’s voice.
While Sally tries to figure out what’s happening to her, another outsider arrives at The Cove. This is James Quinlan, an FBI agent posing as a private investigator. He tells people that he’s there looking for clues about the three-year-old disappearance of a retired couple who vanished while traveling through the area, but he’s really there to track down Sally and get her side of the story regarding her father’s murder.
The rest of the novel then tells how Sally and Quinlan work together to figure out what really happened to her father in order to clear Sally’s name for good. There’s also a secondary mystery involving the town and its residents, as well as a romantic subplot involving the two leads.
My Reaction: Boy, oh, boy was I disappointed at the story that unfolded in The Cove. I suppose regular fans of Catherine Coulter would have known about and/or expected the romance angle, but I didn’t, so when all of that kind of stuff came up, I wanted to vomit. I mean, some of the elements in this novel were so sappy that they reminded me of Nicholas Sparks’ work. James and Sally fall completely, madly in love within a week of meeting each other? In the midst of a murder investigation? When Sally just might be stark, raving mad? Uh huh.
And the sex scenes were so… Harlequinesque. I don’t want to go into details here, but oh lord, it was as effective as any emetic.
The mysteries were tangled, stupid, and wholly unbelievable — especially the one about ALL of the townsfolk conspiring to murder hapless tourists in order to fund public works and infrastructure. Um, give me a break here. How much cash does Coulter think people travel with these days? It made zero sense, and to be asked to believe that an ancient old woman was the mastermind behind it all? Sorry, no can do.
In short, don’t be fooled by descriptions that call The Cove a thriller. This is a romance novel with a couple of dumb mysteries and outlandish plot developments thrown in. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll love it. If you’re looking for an actual thriller, keep right on looking!