My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, I’m looking at Sandra Brown’s The Witness.
The best public defender in Prosper, Kendall has stumbled upon the town’s chilling secret – and her marriage to one of the town’s most powerful men has become a living hell. Now Kendall is a terrified mother trying to save her child’s life.
Deborah LeBlanc calls The Witness “a landmark in the genre now known as romantic suspense.” Sandra Brown started by writing romance, and many of her fans were wary of trying these new suspense novels. Coming from the other side, I was hesitant about this book because of the romance angle. But I have to admit, it was a pleasant surprise.
I really enjoyed the way that Brown writes her story. At first we know nothing about the characters, but even so, there’s enough there to get invested. The book is hard to put down, and before you know it, you’re learning Kendall’s backstory, as the details slowly come into focus… but for every answer you find, you have another question. Books that are told this way, when they’re done well, are some of my favorites to read. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I understood where the book started… and even then, there were still surprises coming.
Luckily for me, the romance didn’t overwhelm the suspense. Even when the pace slows down a bit to allow for the romance, that driving need to unravel the mystery never goes away. LeBlanc mentions Tess Gerritsen and Tami Hoag as other authors who mix romance and suspense, on various points of the spectrum. But “Sandra Brown remains the author who is most identified with maintaining the balance in romantic suspense, and who has most explored its possibilities.”
“The Witness opened doors in the publishing industry that no one realized existed, creating new opportunities for other writers.” Given the long history of literature in general and the suspense novel in particular, I’m not sure I agree with the implication that this is the book that gave birth to the romantic suspense genre. But even if it only revitalized interest in the possibilities, that’s still significant.
I’m not sure I’ll ever read more Sandra Brown. If I wanted to explore the romantic suspense genre, I’d probably be more likely to check out other authors to see what they have to offer. But The Witness was still a great book, and I’m glad it holds a place on this list or I never would have read it.
Twenty-one down, seventy-nine to go…
Next month I’ll be reading William Goldman’s Marathon Man.