Date: November 11, 2003
it at Amazon
like the wind the title refers to, Alice Blanchard's The Breathtaker
is a powerhouse thriller most of the way through. The first three-quarters
of the novel have the tremendous momentum of a superior suspense
thriller. Set in the tornado-prone wilds of Oklahoma, The Breathtaker
presents a unique concept-what if a killer knew exactly when a tornado
would strike and took advantage of that to prey on the unguarded
residents hard hit by the monster wind?
Grover, the protagonist, is the local sheriff of a backwater town
who, after a smaller tornado hits his area, comes across the gruesome
corpses of a family of three-obviously killed by something other
than the tornado itself. Other twisters hit and other corpses are
found, in small Tornado Alley towns in Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska.
What makes the first three-quarters of this novel so powerful is
the building evidence that points towards as many as four different
suspects, the peculiar calling card the killer leaves with his victims,
and the revelation of multiple evils. Even members of the police
force, it seems, are not immune.
author is a stylist who knows how to turn a descriptive phrase,
but equally knows how to write page-turning prose. Her characters
come alive when confronted with hardship-alcoholism, tornado devastation,
murder, adultery, and family abuse all figure in the story.
the last quarter of the novel is significantly more predictable
and formulaic, this does not really damage the overall impact of
the tale. Along the way, the reader learns a substantial amount
about tornadoes-fascinating stuff-and Charlie even finds a love
interest. Optioned for film, The Breathtaker, in spite of the slower
going of the last section, is one of the better thrillers this year.