Message From The Author
What Lies Beneath... Hurricane Bay
RT plumbs the murky depths of blockbuster author
Heather Graham's latest and gets the scoop on romantic suspense.
by Angela Martenez
Though Hurricane Bay, the eponymous island setting of Heather Graham's newest contemporary (Mira Books, April '02), might suggest a tumultuous atmosphere, the main force behind this murder mystery lies simmering beneath a sleepy exterior, only to explode when you least expect it. Indeed the element of surpriseintegral to any suspense storyemerges beyond simply a twisting plot, weaving its way into the characters and environment of this Southern Florida thriller. Graham leads her readers into the murky underbelly of the Florida Keys, creating a world that bears little resemblance to the land of Mickey Mouse and bingo that the Sunshine State has come to represent. In these parts, the "Golden Girls" are officially on hiatus.
The hero of HURRICANE BAY is one Dane Whitlaw, a private eye from the old gumshoe school where a lazy demeanor cloaks his razor-sharp intuition and a dogged pursuit of the truth. This facade gives Dane enoughleeway to trace the steps of a serial killer, but can't keep him from being framed for the sudden disappearance of a local floozy. Enter Kelsey Cunningham, the no-nonsense heroine of this beachfront caper, who makes up in resolve what she lacks in street smarts. Kelsey is determined to find her missing friend Sheila, though preferably without falling into the arms of Dane or the killer, who she fears may be one and the same. Through Dane and Kelsey's perilous exploitsas well as a host of quirky and elusive characters who never seem to reveal everything they really knowHURRICANE BAY coaxes readers through a labyrinth of emotions and intrigue which mirrors the disorienting nature of life in the tropicswhere powerful forces can surge up at any time and sweep you away.
Graham uses the traditional elements of an island paradise to compose a classic tale of suspense that conjures the smoldering energy of Bogart and Bacall in "Key Largo," as its withering heat, confounding locals and smart-aleck banter belies the menacing undercurrent of corruption. The bestselling author and native Floridian concurs that her aim was to recreate the feel of an old movie, no doubt drawing on her background under the stage lightsfirst as a theater arts major and later performing in various local productions. "I stage events and people when I'm writing them," Graham explains. And with a murder mystery like HURRICANE BAY, this approach generates a steady rhythm of suspense.
In this latest release of Graham's multi-genre, two-decades-long career, the cast of characters find themselves driven by a powerful, sometimes involuntary, connection to their environment, one which goes beyond just enjoying fresh fish and sunset walks along the beach. Indeed, so imposing is Hurricane Bay's influence that it emerges as a character itself, compelling the story's human players to behave in ways they might not otherwise have chosen. This is a Florida that treats tourism as a vital element of daily life, yet which extends beyond the mere pleasures of Margaritaville. Graham refers here to the many Floridians who recognizeat times begrudginglythe necessity of tourist dollars for survival, and perhaps the price that gets paid in return. Therein lie the seeds for HURRICANE BAY's dramatic journey. For it is in the hidden corners of sweltering Southern Florida that the protagonists encounter foul play, illicit drugs, cheap sex and, of course, passionall of which have the potential to draw them into some very deadly waters.
Having authored roughly 100 novels, plus numerous novellas and short stories, including historical romance, vampire fiction and time travel as well as contemporaries, Graham's writing is often grounded in an exploration of the darker side of life. Though the author admits to having a "phobia" of darkness, clearly she has used her pen to light the proverbial candle, as she delves into worlds like the one in HURRICANE BAY. The resulting work suggests that what might be discovered, in the midst of such ominous shadows, can be as captivating as it is foreboding. Perhaps it's her self-described affinity for chaos that has enabled this mother of five to plunge into the eye of the storm through her writing. "I like commotion around me and can usually focus no matter what is going on," she admits of her tendency to write in the dining room amidst the pets and homework and general flurry of daily family activity (or more likely, amid the hustle and bustle of a whirlwind Booklovers tour through Europe).
True to its creator's unswerving approach to her writing, HURRICANE BAY is fixed on delivering danger and passion straight through to its jaw-dropping conclusiona reminder that life, like the weather, is always unpredictable. Proceed at your own risk...
To find more about Heather and her other titles, visit www.booktalk.com/Hgraham.
Excerpt from HURRICANE BAY
Earlier Kelsey had planned to leave the Sea Shanty and head straight back to the duplex for a tub of hot water, a cup of tea, a Tylenol PM and a night's sound sleep.
Instead she forced herself to sit tight for a moment when Dane left, then feigned a yawn and begged off. She left quickly and followed Dane's footsteps. When he stopped to light a cigarette, she froze. As soon as he was in his Jeep and heading out of the lot, she ran for her own car, gunned the engine and sent pebbles flying as she hurried to catch him. He had entered the flow of traffic, heading north.
Her hands were shaking on the wheel. Dane knew something he wasn't telling. She was sure of it.
Of course, she wasn't giving him all the information she had, either. Meanwhile, she was determined to follow him tonight.
Dane's relationship with Sheila still disturbed her.
Why? She shouldn't have been surprised that he had slept with Sheila. It hadn't been anything new. They had been a duo all through high school, after all. And she hadn't needed to find the earring or hear from Dane himself that he had been with Sheila. When she had first reached Key Largo and Sheila hadn't been there, she had heard right away from Cindy that Sheila had been seeing Dane.
Before that, on the phone, Sheila had told her that she was seeing him, though there had been a strange wistful tone to her voice that hadn't seemed to fit the words.
Kelsey realized how badly she wanted to believe in Dane. She didn't know why. Maybe it was impossible to be with him without feeling an attraction. After all, he had been Joe's best friend. There for most of her life. Older, handsome, assured, determined on his future, confident in his ability to get where he wanted to go.
Or maybe it was just because of that night.
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