Latest review: I Will Make You Pay by Teresa Driscoll

By Ekta R. Garg

October 16, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Release date: October 10, 2019

Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars

A journalist experiences extreme anxiety when a stalker sends her threatening messages. As the messages escalate in scope and type, she battles her fear as well as the looming questions of who would do this to her and why. Author Teresa Driscoll keeps readers guessing all the way to the last pages of her excellent novel, I Will Make You Pay.

On what feels like an ordinary Wednesday, reporter Alice Henderson answers the phone at her desk to a distorted voice. The caller makes a threat and hangs up, leaving her breathless with terror. Her coworkers rally to cheer her up, but Alice is shaken. Then on the following Wednesday, another threat comes from the mystery man. This time Alice’s editor takes it more seriously and calls the Devon police department.

Alice doesn’t understand what’s happening. It’s not like she’s a reporter for one of the big-time publications out of London. She works on a small newspaper out of a city suburb, and for the most part she does special features. Why would anyone want to hurt her? What could she have possibly done to anger someone so much?

Her boyfriend, Tom, furious at her stalker, hires a private investigator. Matthew Hill used to work as a policeman but has since changed careers. He promised his wife that life as a PI would bring in better money and offer less dangerous work. After taking on Alice’s case, he’s not so sure the latter is true.

As the weeks go by, the attacks get worse: more menacing and definitely more personal. They happen every Wednesday, a day Alice has come to dread and hate. With a forced leave of absence keeping her away from the office, she splits her time between Tom’s home and her sister’s house. She just can’t sit on her hands, however, so Alice begins to work on other story ideas. She refuses to let the stalker ruin her life, even if he is bent on making her suffer for some unknown crime.

Matt Hill is determined to keep Alice safe, and a lead on a possible suspect gives him hope. The pieces don’t quite fit the puzzle, however, and as each Wednesday comes and goes Matt realizes he’s working against a clock. He uses every resource at his disposal, calling in old favors at the police department, to make sure the stalker can’t hurt Alice—or worse.

Author Teresa Driscoll takes a familiar storyline and infuses it with freshness. She builds a likeable, relatable protagonist in Alice. As the attacks on her get worse and no obvious suspect is brought forward, readers will begin to worry about who’s threatening her and why.

Driscoll takes a major risk in not revealing any connection between Alice and her stalker until the last couple of chapters, a feat considering the book runs more than 60 chapters long. In this case, however, the risk pays off. She accomplishes this by a two-pronged approach: offering readers compelling subplots with their own twists and turns and including a parallel storyline of the stalker’s life without giving any identifying details.

The result gives fans of thrillers an interesting advantage. By the end, they will know much more about the stalker than Alice will. In many cases where readers have more information than the characters, readers can get frustrated waiting for characters to “catch up” to the story. Here, with careful planning, the plot makes sense as is. It allows for a richer, more satisfying experience. The resolution also plays closer to the reality of these types of cases.

Those who appreciate thrillers or books about British characters (or both) will certainly enjoy this novel. I recommend readers Bookmark I Will Make You Pay.

Latest review: Convergence by Ginny L. Yttrup

By Ekta R. Garg

March 6, 2019

Genre: Suspense; Christian fiction

Release date: March 1, 2019

Rated: Bordering on Bypass it / 2.5 stars

Strange occurrences remind a psychologist of a horrific event from her past, and she must deal with the post-traumatic stress. As she does so, she turns to her faith for guidance and also goes with her instinct to confront the incidents. Seasoned author Ginny L. Yttrup tries her hand at the suspense genre in the well-meaning but ultimately unsuccessful novel Convergence.

Dr. Denilyn Rossi spends her days teaching and working on her latest book about psychology. At least, she’s trying to do both. Eight years earlier, after her book about cyberbullying hit the bestseller list, Deni became a celebrity and the victim of a stalker. She suffered a brutal attack but survived and has spent every day since healing both inside and out.

Despite undergoing a divorce and changing jobs from practicing psychologist to the head of the psychology department at a university, Deni managed to pull her life back together. The man who attacked her is behind bars, and she’s well-respected and well-liked by colleagues and students. All seems to be moving in a positive direction, except for the fact that Deni can’t shake the feeling that someone is following her again.

At first she thinks the sensation is brought on by the upcoming anniversary of her attack and that her convicted attacker is up for parole. As a psychologist, she knows that both events can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. But the more she pays attention to the feeling, the more she realizes she may not just be experiencing stress.

Her close friends encourage her to seek guidance from her faith in God, and Deni does. She also reminisces about her friend, Adelia Sanchez. Years ago, Deni, Adelia, and two other good friends led whitewater rafting expeditions, until an accident made them leave the water. Memories of Adelia, of her failed marriage, and the life-changing encounter with the man who stalked her follow Deni everywhere she goes these days.

Her faith provides her solace, true, but she also knows she can’t just sit back and wait for circumstances to play out on their own. She believes she’s following God’s will by creating her own solution. Deni just doesn’t know if this time she’ll succumb to the danger.

Author Ginny L. Yttrup delves into the genre of suspense for the first time, but unfortunately her debut leaves much to be desired. The story flips between Deni in the present day, Deni in the past in the weeks leading up to her attack, and Adelia. The constant ping-ponging between timelines and characters will leave readers confused at times, despite Yttrup starting each chapter with the date and the character speaking. Early on Yttrup establishes Deni as the protagonist; however, Adelia’s portions come later in time than Deni’s, and readers won’t know until the last third of the book why the story was structured this way.

Successful suspense books depend on bursts of information followed by bursts of action; in the case of Convergence, Yttrup has taken a more thoughtful approach. This allows for readers to get to know Deni and to understand how she depends on her faith to get her through difficult times. In and of itself, this portion of the writing works well. Framed by a larger story that tries to be a suspense/thriller novel, the more introspective portions of the book just stick out. They slow down the story, and many readers may get impatient.

Yttrup also errs when it comes to releasing information; the characters in the book often know much more than readers do. Characters discuss important events without naming them, and readers will have to infer much of the information for a long time before they’re given confirmation. The cloak-and-dagger device only works for so long; after the halfway mark, it becomes tedious, as does the book.

Fans of Yttrup’s other work may want to pick this one up. It does a respectful job of showing how a person’s faith works organically within his or her life. Strictly as a suspense or thriller, though, the novel doesn’t work at all. I believe Convergence Borders on Bypassing it.