The Devil’s Dance by Kristen Lamb

By Ekta R. Garg

June 28, 2017

Genre: Mystery

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

When a woman gets blackballed because of a corporate scandal, she returns to the town where she grew up. Her problems follow her home, however, and only get bigger as she realizes someone is stalking her. If she wants to stay alive, she’ll need to figure out who wants her dead while also dealing with her crazy family. Social media giant Kristen Lamb puts her efforts toward a likeable heroine stuck in a surprisingly mundane plot in The Devil’s Dance.

Romi Lachlan wants nothing more than to find a place where she can curl up and wait for the world to forget about her. It’s bad enough that the company she worked for, Verify, has crashed faster than a plane in a nosedive. It hurts even more that Verify’s top brass stole the income and savings of all the employees, Romi included.

The kicker, though, comes in the fact that top exec Phil, Romi’s fiancé—or, rather, ex-fiancé—betrayed her. Except that no one believes that Romi didn’t see his deception earlier. Many think she was in on the plan and is just waiting for the right time to join him on a sunny beach somewhere.

When she runs into trouble, she knows she really has nowhere else to go but home. Romi left Bisby, Texas, with grand thoughts of moving up and out. Who needs a small backwater town where her mother ran off one day without a word, and her father, a mean man harder than a rock in the first place, has only gotten more cantankerous with time? Plus, dealing with her crazy grandmother would make anyone go insane.

She finds out that the trailer park where she grew up is scheduled for demolition within a month. An FBI agent shows up on her tail, grilling her about Phil’s location. Then the murders begin, and Romi gets the sneaking suspicion that somehow she’s walked into something big. Her goal is to stay alive long enough to figure out whatever it is, before someone—either the murderer or the FBI—gets to her.

Author Kristen Lamb has guided independent authors for years. Many writers continue to look to her blog and books for advice on how to best position themselves in the market for success. She emphasizes the quality of story above everything else, which is why the plotting and character problems in The Devil’s Dance may surprise her fans. Truly, the book needed a few more rounds of editing before publication.

The positives in the book lift it from the depths of mediocrity. Lamb’s writing, in many places, sparkles. Romi’s voice comes through loud and clear. In her explanation for how she created Romi, Lamb states that she wanted to address stereotypes while breaking them at the same time. She gives Romi a degree, summa cum laude, in information systems. Romi is smart, and she knows how to use her education and her common sense to get ahead. She doesn’t need to resort to dumb blonde tricks or lurid means.

It’s heartbreaking, then, that while Lamb breaks some stereotypes, she fulfills others in her plotting and story treatment. In the “big reveal” Romi goes into a monologue that lasts for 14 pages to answer every major question posed in the story. In other places, too, Romi suddenly comes up with all the information that a character just happens to need in the moment. The convenience of her knowledge is jarring and hard to believe.

One of the characters changes in a fundamental way, but because readers don’t spend much time with the person it’ll be hard for them to buy into the major shift that leads to the climax. The story itself veers into the territory of its genre—mystery/thriller—in a somewhat abrupt way. One minute Romi is trying to deal with a kleptomaniac grandmother; the next she’s trying to figure out how to solve a major case for the FBI. The rough transitions don’t make sense.

In fact, many of Lamb’s choices could have come from any one of her blog entries on how not to write a story. The repeated editing, spelling, and formatting errors, too, will distract readers enough to make them scratch their heads and wonder whether Lamb actually did write the book herself. It’s hard to believe that someone with her level of expertise would turn out a story that’s less than stellar.

A great protagonist and Lamb’s reputation may keep some readers engaged. Those who don’t know of her may give the book a pass. I recommend readers Borrow The Devil’s Dance.