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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blood Money by Pepper Smith

Blood Money by Pepper Smith
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (241 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

When Patty O’Donnell married her Irish sweetheart and moved from America to her husband’s small home town on the Irish seacoast, the most dangerous things she had to deal with were the half-ton racehorses in her father-in-law’s stables. But when she and her husband return from a late night out to find their house being searched, she discovers there are far worse things lurking in her bucolic surroundings than temperamental Thoroughbreds.

The teenage son of a late family friend brings proof of a long forgotten debt owed by the O’Donnells, part of a cargo lost in a shipwreck over a century and a half ago. He wants the cargo salvaged, and quickly, so he can help his mother free herself from her abusive second husband. The O’Donnells are willing, but the search and salvage mission puts them square in the sights of modern-day pirates, who want the salvage for themselves.

Suddenly, Patty finds herself hunted and in a fight for her life, where yielding to panic means a swift and ugly death.

Pepper Smith’s Blood Money has its eerie and haunting moments, startling moments and even some thrills, but it is most characterized by its vastly unpredictable plot.

Ms. Smith takes a chance and makes the offbeat work (a thief in the house for a week?) and even seem normal. Although this kicks off with a bit of a scary start, it moves into solving a puzzle; then tension mounts as it becomes a treasure hunt. A further danger lurks out there, with no forewarning at all. This story is beyond unpredictable and from page one, it is completely engaging.

From the chill in the air to the hair-raising sense of an intruder lurking, Patty, our main character, is in the thick of it. For a work rich in characterization (the author even manages to perfectly reveal one of the stable boy’s character in a spare couple of sentences) Patty is a standout. She’s competent and clever, and we can’t help rooting for her all the way through. Secondary characters abound, but they are clearly written and completely believable. Miles, the instigator for the whole series of adventures, is also just a teenager and at moments so typical! There is more than one antagonist, the one prima donna in the mix, others more dangerous. I would say you must read Blood Money for its depth of characters… but then, the descriptions are believe-you-are-there quality.

The giant old Irish house – mansion really, set dramatically against a steep cliff could not be a more perfect setting for the beginning of Blood Money. In fact I grew rather attached to it – as well as the gallops beyond, and regretted it when we left. The horses, the breeze off the Atlantic, all simply perfect: Yet, the adventure moved seamlessly forward.

Scent, background noise, and other descriptions always contribute to the aura of any particular passage. The descriptions are thorough and detailed and in no rush. Some might complain that they slow the action and yet they suit the style of this particular story. There are moments of intense action, then things slow. We are able to savor the place, the view… to sense it really, far more so than in many of today’s novels.

All that said, I must note one point: this is not a typical romance as the protagonist is married, though it certainly has romantic elements. Those looking for a typical romance might well be disappointed or object to slower sections. However, I for one will certainly read this fabulous book again.