Sandra Ardoin reviews.
Critical Condition was my first introduction to a novel by Richard Mabry. It won’t be my last. A big reason was because the author held back just enough detail about the plot to keep me guessing.
Dr. Shannon Frasier wants to get her life back on track. A tragedy ten years earlier has her fearful of committing to her boyfriend, Dr. Mark Gilbert, and terrified of guns. The drive-by shooting of a man on her front lawn begins a series of events that send her life spiraling out of her control and toward her own death.
Shannon feels compelled to play “mother” to her younger and troublesome sister, Megan, who is a recovering drug addict. Right after the shooting, Megan leaves the latest in a string of boyfriends to live with Shannon until she finds another job and apartment. But when that boyfriend ends up dead and the two sisters’ fingerprints are found on the weapon, they become the prime suspects.
The story starts with a prologue that gives us insight into a key event in Shannon’s life ten years earlier, then opens at just the right spot in the present. The important parts of the prologue probably could have been incorporated into the first scene to bolster Shannon’s emotional issues, but either way, it’s great action.
The writing surprised me in two ways. First, novels written by men generally sound like they've been written by men. Maybe the main point-of-view character being a woman threw me off, but I could see any one of a number of women authors’ names on the cover. Second, to me, it was a bit more character driven than most novels in the romantic suspense category. I think it was because the writer upped the ante for Shannon with a slew of personal issues, rather than focusing strictly on the danger. And there was a nice twist at the end.
One of the things I liked about this book was the way Dr. Mabry provided his readers with medical situations and terms that a lay person could follow. It didn't read like an article out of The New England Journal of Medicine. He never talks down to his readers, yet the medical aspect brought depth to the plot and characters.
Several points-of-view are employed, rather than the usual hero/heroine. It keeps the reader guessing about Shannon’s personal choice. I did have a problem with one instance in the book that related to Mark Gilbert. I won’t go into it for obvious reasons, but it bothered me because there seemed no point to it. For me, it raised a question that never got resolved, since no further mention was made.
In summary, from a suspense standpoint, I’ve read novels that were more of a nail-biter, but Critical Condition is an enjoyable read.
***Sandra Ardoin is a multi-published author of short fiction who writes inspirational historical romance. Her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel, is available for pre-order on Amazon. She’s the married mother of a young adult and lives in North Carolina. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook,Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest.