Friday, July 3, 2009

By Carroll: Agent in Old Lace

The phrase, “It started with a bang,” has been used to describe the beginning of all manner of things, from the universe itself, to movies and, of course, to books. It’s meant as a positive description—except when used in tandem with, “and it ended with a whimper.”

Tristi Pinkston has avoided that pitfall in her new suspense novel, Agent in Old Lace. It starts with a bang as the object of Shannon’s affection, Mark, kidnaps her with the intent of killing her. It has plenty of action and suspense throughout, and it delivers a surprise at the end, which readers always enjoy.

The part of the plot that has Mark bilking many of Shannon’s clients through a Ponzi scheme (think Bernie Madoff) is timely and believable. When Mark escapes, an FBI agent (Rick) is assigned to protect Shannon. He has to show up in drag to do so, hence the title, Agent in Old Lace. While I found this plotline not so believable, it provides many opportunities for humor as well as some sweet exchanges that move Shannon and Rick’s budding romance forward.

I liked Shannon very much. She’s a gutsy character who doesn’t let circumstances take over her life. I only wish I’d had the chance to know her better up front. The downside to a writer jumping headlong into action is that readers haven’t been given the chance to develop empathy for the characters.

If Tristi had started the book with scenes showing Shannon meeting Mark, becoming impressed by his business acumen, and falling in love with his charming side, I would have felt how devastating his betrayal was rather that reading about how devastating it was.

That aside, I found Agent in Old Lace an enjoyable summer read. Congratulations to Tristi, who is known to readers for her historical fiction, for making a successful transition into the suspense genre.

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