A few weeks ago, a fellow book-lover and I were having a conversation about how we’ve each gotten into a “reading rut” – each of us reading only our favorite genres. We tried to describe what kind of book we’d like to read as an alternative or a “take-a-break-book.” We found it hard to describe what we wanted. My friend said, “I’ll know it when I’m in the middle of it.” I wasn’t so sure, but then – Bam – I picked up Red Leaves, a book coming up on tour, and by the middle of the second chapter I knew I had my”take-a-break” book.
First, let me share the book’s synopsis:
As the star player of Dartmouth College’s women’s basketball team, Kristina Kim is beautiful, intelligent, and fearless. But though she’s just 21, Kristina has already had her share of heartache, loss, and dark secrets that haunt her. She’s best friends with Conni, Albert, and Jim, but the only one who seems to really know her is Albert. With long dark hair, tattoos, and a rebellious streak, Albert doesn’t fit in with the rest of the clean-cut Ivy Leaguers. Like Kristina, he has his share of secrets—secrets that are beginning to unravel this intimate circle of friends.
One wintry Thanksgiving weekend tragedy strikes…
When Detective Spencer O’Malley goes to investigate something suspicious at the foot of a steep hill on Dartmouth’s campus, he doesn’t expect that the frozen, naked body found in deep snow would belong to Kristina Kim—the remarkable young woman he met recently who entranced him. Now Spencer will never know if the chemistry he had with her was real. All he can do is find her killer.
Spencer is pulled into the strange, complex web of the surviving friends. Many important questions about Kristina’s murder cannot be answered, such as: why did none of them report her missing for nine days before her body was discovered? The more Spencer digs, the more clear it becomes that each of the three has a motive for killing Kristina. And as Spencer, seeking justice for a dead girl, is led down a labyrinth of deceit, every new revelation proves more shocking than the last….and more dangerous.
The publisher calls Red Leaves a Suspense Thriller, but I found it more than that. It was definitely a character-driven novel, focusing as it did on the four Ivy League college kids and the detectives. These “people” were different, maybe a little edgy or strange. They were hard to figure out. I like Spenser, the detective, although this guy’s also different.
There were a couple times the story dragged a bit, but that’s a minor complaint. Overall, and especially the last section, the story flew. The nicest thing about this story was that it really involved my brain. Just when I had something figured out and thought we were sailing in one direction, boom – it turned around and went in another direction. Normally this might bother me, but not in this story. In this author’s hands these turns added to the pleasure of the puzzle. Now you see why I called this my “take0-a-break” book. If you’re looking for something different, give Red Leaves a try.
Paullina Simons is an internationally bestselling author whose novels include Bellagrand and The Bronze Horseman was born in Leningrad in 1963. As a child she immigrated to Queens, New York, and attended colleges in Long Island. Then she moved to England and attended Essex University, before returning to America. She lives in New York with her husband and children.