Friday, April 1, 2011

Running on Empty by Sandra Balzo

I think this book is being released on April 1, so if I did it correctly this review should run on April 1.

AnnaLise Griggs is a reporter in Wisconsin, but she heads home to North Carolina when she hears her mother drew several pints of blood instead of just one from a blood donor. AnnaLise is concerned to discover her mother is having occasionally memory lapses that might be early signs of Alzheimer's. She's less worried when the body of a local man is fished from the lake--it's Labor Day weekend and the man was drinking. But when another body turns up under much more suspicious circumstances, AnnaLise starts to wonder what's really going on in her sleepy hometown.

Running on Empty has all the elements of a fun mystery and for the most part it is fun. The plot is excellent--I truly had no idea who the murderer was or why the murders happened--and I enjoyed following along with the clues.

I was less impressed with the writing. Balzo seems to dislike using a name more than once a paragraph and practically twists herself into a writerly pretzel to avoid doing so, referring to characters as "the innkeeper" or "Daisy's daughter" or just "daughter." I found it jarring and sometimes confusing. I also felt like the book was trying hard not to switch to first person from third: frequently AnnaLise gave asides to the reader that seemed more appropriate to a first-person narrative. Even so, I never felt very close to her.

But the setting, a small tourist town in North Carolina, was well realized and I liked AnnaLise's mother and her mother's best friend. And as I said, the mystery was very good.

A copy of this book was provided to Skunk Cat by the publisher or author for review.

B&N link

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