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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Center Ring by Sutton Fox

Center Ring by Sutton Fox
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Contemporary; Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Can missing family ties replace murder as a common bond?

Bereft of family as a child, Julia Cameron finally has everything she's ever wanted. Her billion dollar racing empire and FASPRO team in line for their first championship seems the trophy in the center ring. But, her enviable life came at the price of her adopted parent's lives, and now Julia has also inherited the responsibility of her teenage twin brothers.

Roane Jameson, the new head of FASPRO security, is determined to solve the Cameron case, and fast. Desperate to keep this job to pay his child support, he needs to create a glowing reputation to conceal his shadowy past. He's willing to do whatever it takes. How hard can it be when he's only got one suspect?

Fox's Center Ring,,set in the world of a car racing league, kicks off dramatically and will immediately hook any reader’s interest. It also sets the stage; we know from the start that the culprits are not afraid of extreme measures… and so even as our heroine, Julie Cameron, is forced to realize that she is the police’s suspect number 1; she is also potentially the real killer’s next victim.

Julia Cameron’s efforts to defend herself and find the real culprits are compromised not only by official investigations and the media, but by a highly unofficial,and far too near, investigator.

Julia is head of Cameron Motorsports, with responsibility to a lot of people. Her feelings for her adoptive parents, anger at injustice, and dedication to the company is conveyed well.

Roane Jameson, head of security for the racing league and now part of her personal ‘security entourage,’ will be able to set about pinning the murders on her. As he has a dark gaze, rather like a tiger waiting for prey, Julia far from welcomes his intrusion. And he’s starts off a little smarmy, in his too-casual outfits and his pretense of enjoying cinnamon coffee, but he’s nobody’s fool. He considers all sorts of possibilities and isn’t shy about questioning Julia when she’s down. He’s far from a likable leading man, at first. He is very human however, with a difficult past, and assorted entanglements and obligations.

Julia is a very different person, with an often tragic background. However, she is also the head of Cameron Motorsports and feels a responsibility to her employees and race car teams. Throughout, her feelings for her siblings and dedication to her company is well conveyed; although perhaps she too light-heartedly remembers the adoptive parents that changed her life and were so abruptly taken away.

Dialogue assures a lot of tension in many, many scenes. Our heroine exudes a tough, confrontational exterior – and you will cheer for her courage, especially as we also understand her doubts and fears. She is an utterly admirable character.

Fox does a superb job of creating the setting. From the first camping area to the league offices, to the lake side home of the protagonist, to the races themselves, each scene is easy to visualize and completely believable. The ‘traveling circus’ of truck-drivers, motor-homes and racecars all hitting the road for a race meet – as well as some of the cars driven throughout- also complete the backdrop.

The medley of characters and occasional changes in view point make this a little bit of a demanding read. Minor incidents are creative and interesting, while more pivotal events are predictable. The resolution of a few sub-threads is never truly spelled out, although the overall resolution is entirely satisfying. The writing style is straightforward and readable; this is a good, enjoyable combination of the basic ‘whodunit’ blended with a romance. 4 books.