BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: The Third Secret by Tara Taylor Quinn

Book Blurb: He did the crime. He’s done the time.

Rick Thomas stole drug-cartel evidence from a government facility. And spent three years in a federal prison.
Attorney Erin Morgan has a rule: never defend the bad guys. But Rick Thomas, quiet and self-assured, doesn’t seem bad. That’s why she agrees to defend him against what he swears is a trumped-up murder charge. She’s ignoring her experience and listening to her instincts instead.

But psychologist and expert witness Kelly Chapman is listening to her instincts, too. And they’re saying that Rick Thomas is lying to Erin. That he’s keeping secrets. That he’s a dangerous man. And that, despite everything, maybe he’s one of the good guys.

My Thoughts: The Third Secret is the third book in Quinn's series, The Chapman Files. Each book is connected by Dr Kelly Chapman, who plays a supporting role in each of the books. Like James Patterson's The Womens Murder Club, each book is numbered and the number figures into the story in some way.

In The Third Secret, Chapman offers advice and support when an acquaintance of hers, Erin Morgan, calls her with self-doubts about her work and the choices she's made in her life. Erin worries that she's taking cases for the wrong reasons, seeking only the win and no longer caring about guilt or innocence. She is a defense attorney in small town Temple, Michigan and she tries to only take cases where she believes that the accused is truly innocent. A recent case where the accused turned out to be both guilty and unapologetic has her questioning herself.

Additionally, Erin worries that her life has become stagnant. Four years ago, her fiance, a firefighter, was killed saving a child from a fire. Since then, she has withdrawn somewhat from the world while becoming more enmeshed with her late fiance's family. An only child whose parents are dead, Erin has found a replacement family, even attending Sunday church services with them.

Rick Thomas has only lived in Temple for a year, supporting himself as as handyman. Before that, though he keeps it quiet, he was a covert special agent for the US Government. He was part of a three man team who answered only to their sergeant, known as Sarge. An op they did several years went wrong and Thomas went to prison. The team he worked for was so secret, so deeply underground, that the government disavowed all knowledge of  them. While working as part of the team, Rick and the other men had aliases although after the team broke up when Rick was sent to jail, they were careful to use their original, real names.

Erin and Rick meet when he is arrested for murdering a local Homeland Security officer. It was never clear to me why a small town that wasn't on any international border, needed such an officer other than as a story device to get Rick arrested. The HS officer's death is a crucial point to the story; Rick is convinced that it has something to do with his past as a government agent and it turns out that he is correct.

Erin and Rick both find themselves attracted to each other right from the moment they meet but they resist it. Rick is concerned with proving his innocence; he also has little experience with women beyond one night stands and paid companions. Erin worries that she's letting her attraction to Rick affect her decision to defend him. She believes that Rick is not telling her everything, withholding vital information. She is of course right.

 Although Rick comes across at times as emotionally stunted, it is more a matter of keeping himself tightly in control. For years he had to watch his step and not show any vulnerabilities, in his former line of work that would have been dangerous. The one area where he allows himself any emotion is when he visits his childhood friend, Steve Miller. Steve was injured when he fell off of a roof, a roof that Rick dared him to climb. The fall left him with the brain of a five year old. Rick has taken responsibility for Steve's care, partly because of a guilty conscience and partly because Steve's father, now dead, could never deal with Steve's condition and would have abandoned him.

Meanwhile, Erin finds herself at odds with her former fiance's parents when she tries to help their teenage daughter with an important decision. She comes to realize that she has used them as a crutch while at the same time realizing that her inclusion into the family was not as deep or as strong as she believed. At times, this subplot felt very soap opera-ish but it did allow us to see Erin's interactions with other people.

Dr. Kelly Chapman makes brief appearances during the book, both professionally as a psychologist and expert witness, and also as Erin's friend. She worries that Rick is lying to Erin and will hurt her. We also see glimpses of Kelly's personal life and her struggles to be a parent to a young teenage girl that she recently gained custody of.

Over the course of the book, Quinn slowly peels away the layers of Rick and Erin's personalities and behavior. She doesn't rush things along, but slowly develops the story and the characters. I really liked that neither Erin nor Rick rush into a relationship or affair but go slowly. There is one moment when they come very close to having sex but Erin pulls back, reminding both herself and Rick that engaging in sex would be unethical since she's his defense attorney.

The pace really picks up in the last third of the book when Rick discovers who set him up for murder and also killed his former teammates.Both Erin and Steve find themselves in danger though their shared adventure helps to bring them closer. At one point, Erin vows that if they survive, but Rick doesn't, she will take care of Steve and gain custody of him. I figured out very early on who was responsible for framing Rick but I was completely wrong about the why. Quinn does a nice job of slowly unraveling the facts and making it all believable though there were parts that stretched incredulity at times.

Publisher: Mira
Release Date: November 1st, 2010

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