Saturday, April 02, 2011

Wounded Earth (Mary Anna Evans)

Overall: 4.5
  • Plot: 5/5
  • Originality: 5/5
  • Language: 3.8/5
  • Believability: 4/5
Wounded Earth by Mary Anna Evans

Larabeth McLeod has beauty, money, several patents, a Ph.D., a successful environmental firm, and some very old secrets. When a man with the uncomfortable name of Babykiller begins stalking her, terrorizing her with stories of her darkest days in Vietnam, stories no one else knows, she feels compelled to fight back...until he exposes her most tender secret of all by threatening the daughter she has never met.

She turns to private detective J.D. Hatten for help, breaking five years of separation and silence between quarreling friends. And then Babykiller shows his true capabilities. He is the head of an illicit business offering but one service--moving cargo worldwide for criminals who need their drugs or cash or smuggled goods shipped safely and anonymously--so he is capable of putting anything anywhere. He quietly explains to Larabeth, a well-known environmental executive, that he can even put defective gauges in nuclear power plants, and he will, just to get her attention. If she goes to the police for protection, people will die. Lots and lots of people will die. And one of them will be her daughter.

Larabeth and J.D. are just a normal man and woman, up against a babykiller. But then, Babykiller doesn't know who he's dealing with...
Genre: Thriller
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When one thinks of environmentalism and conservationism (and many other -isms), the image that comes to mind is often that of radicals changing themselves to trees or driving cars that run on vegetable oil. Larabeth McLeod is a far cry from these radical interpretations, a business-savvy woman with subtly effective interpersonal skills, positive support from the media, and a stalwart dedication to cleaning up a Wounded Earth. Unfortunately, her success has drawn the long-standing attention of a psychotic terminal cancer patient with a penchant for chaos and ample means to inflict his whims upon the world. A large-scale game of cat-and-mouse ensues, fueled by two great motivators: green Earth and green money.

Evans’ characters are convincingly flawed, and their actions are at times brilliant and other times unbelievably stupid. Admittedly, there were large portions of the story where I wanted to beat Larabeth and her daughter silly with a giant foam bat, primarily because of their shared Achilles’ heel: pride. Ah, the downfall of many a brilliant mind. Larabeth’s friend, J.D., only shows a modicum more humility. Add in a healthy dose of obstinacy, and one has believable protagonists who are both understandable and irritating with their confidence and need to be in charge. Too bad for them that Babykiller has already planned out controlled increases in entropy, as one might a routine science experiment with some very, very explosive effects.

Like those of any good maniac, Babykiller’s plans were difficult to predict but made a twisted sort of sense retrospectively. The convoluted steps of his last hurrah were chilling and unexpected, thus instilling a savory sort of dread throughout. There are redeemable villains, and then there are the ones that are purely evil but delightfully mad. Babykiller falls into the latter category, and I enjoyed every bit of his sick and sordid behavior.

I was somewhat less pleased by the second interaction between Larabeth and her daughter. Cynthia’s reaction, while fundamental to the plot, was less conflicted than I had hoped for and less confused than I could have believed. There is also the small matter of some proofreading errors, including the changing of a pilot’s name back and forth between MacGowan and Malone. I still don’t know which one the author intended. The use of apostrophes before Sixties and Fifties, etc., was also highly irritating, as they were unnecessary and faced in the wrong direction anyway. There is the matter of the occasional repetitive text and some confusingly worded sentences, but thankfully they were relatively infrequent.

Wounded Earth is a wonderfully entertaining read from beginning to end, recommendable to those who relish suspense and feast on antagonists with delusions of grandeur.

(Review copy provided by the author)

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