Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: Friction

There’s a reason Sandra Brown, author of more than 50 New York Times bestsellers, is still going strong 35 years after publishing her first novel. Like a lot of authors, she can write a first-rate thriller. Unlike a lot of authors, she can infuse one with a first-rate romance.

So it was with enthusiasm that I downloaded the audio edition of Friction, Brown’s 2015 novel about Crawford Hunt, a troubled Texas Ranger who saves the life of a gorgeous newbie judge moments before she rules in the custody hearing of Hunt’s daughter.

In the week that follows, Hunt carries out a clandestine and ill-advised romance with the judge (Holly Spencer), battles his vindictive father-in-law for custody of five-year-old Georgia, and aggravates lawmen and outlaws alike as he pursues the people responsible for a deadly shooting in a small-town courthouse.

In Friction, Brown gets it half right. The crime drama is gritty and compelling. Though the identity of the ultimate culprit is never in doubt, the roles and motives of Hunt’s many other detractors are. Brown offers two twists at the end that lend poignancy to Hunt’s story as Georgia’s father and the neglected son of a town drunk.

Hunt is less sympathetic as a Romeo. His relentless pursuit of Judge Spencer is comically crude, a Lone Star version of “Me Tarzan. You Jane. Tarzan want Jane. Now!” Spencer, for her part, seems more like a schoolgirl with a crush than a rising legal star.

Even so, I liked Friction enough to recommend it. Sandra Brown may sometimes prompt readers and listeners to roll their eyes and shake their head, but she rarely leaves them bored. Rating: 3/5.

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