Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Julie Klassen - The Bridge to Belle Island

After a humiliating mistake, lawyer Benjamin Booker resolves to never again trust a beautiful woman. When an old friend is killed, the senior partner isn't satisfied with Bow Street's efforts and asks Benjamin to investigate. Eager to leave London for a while, Benjamin agrees. Evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames, a world unto itself, shrouded in mist and mystery. Soon he finds himself falling for the main suspect--a woman who claims not to have left the island in ten years. But should he trust her?
On Belle Island, Isabelle feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee's murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man's death. Or is it a memory? She had been furious with him, but she never intended . . . this.
When a second person dies and evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn't know who to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on the island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.

Comment: I was interested in this book, not only because I've had read several books by the author, which I have liked as whole, even when certain things make me downgrade my rating a little, but also because it offered a premise with a slight mystery and I was quite eager to see how the author would include this element in one of her novels.

Lawyer Benjamin Booker travels to Belle Island, as part of an investigation into the affairs of Isabelle Wilder, niece of a recently deceased man, who had the trust of the island, but whose relationship with his family wasn't as polite as it should have been. Some might see Isabelle as a potential culprit but the longer time Ben spends in the island, the more he is captivated by her simplicity and character. However, he has been deceived before and this is certainty affecting his opinion... when strange things start happening on the island and Ben's boss arrives to help, will there be any explanation for the crime and what is happening now or is Isabelle as guilty as someone seems to want her to be despite the fact she has not left the island for ten years? What about the others who has reason to kill the trustee?

I liked this novel, as I tend to when it comes to this author's work, when I think about it as a whole. I feel the author's writing is superb and with a lot of eye for detail (the author does travel a lot for research and inspiration) but I feel that by being placed in the so called "christian fiction" label, limits her options a little. I don't mean to say the romance, for instance, should be explicit, no. It's not really necessary for the story, but sometimes certain emotions and situations could be taken a step further and I think the author does not go there because of what is expected of her work... oh well.

Anyway, I was positively surprised here because this was the first story by mrs Klassen I've read which includes a distinct mystery to be investigated, whereas in other books the drama elements were more character related. This isn't meant to be a true crime story so no complex theories or anything like that but I think the final resolution was done well enough because I was not expecting the author of the crime to be who we discover to be.

The protagonist's relationship is very underrated as one would think since this is "clean romance" but I think it follows the usual pattern for the author's work. Isabelle is a quiet and unassuming woman, she has this apparent weird fear of leaving the island over some superstition but in terms of character she is likable and  easy to relate to. Of course I liked how she wan't perfect, for instance, she does get riled over the fact she is 30 and still has to depend on trustee instead of being able to decide for herself.

Ben is good hero material and dedicated to law although his career choices have affected his relationship with his father and older brother; as expected, part of his redemption arc of sorts is to mend this by finally accepting no one is perfect and that his father isn't angry with him. Ben is initially suspicious of Isabelle, or this is somehow suggested to him, but in part we can see why he would think so, since he was deceived by a client whom he believed to be innocent and wasn't.

Mixing up the slow romance and the characters development as usual with the light crime investigation was interesting... it does seem clear this is one of the author's first attempts... the reasons for why this or that character to be a suspect are ticked off one by one as if we actually had a list in front of us, which made the process a bit too obvious and mechanic, but I think the remaining elements (the small tasks done at the island, who lives there, how they deal with one another, etc) made for a much busier plot than one could imagine. I also wasn't expecting a secret regarding Isabelle's friend, the island's doctor, who seems to be very practical and we discover how lacking patience he actually is...

All things considered, this was a rich novel to read, quiet too and for fans of the author, still at the same expected level. I liked it that it included more things, different elements and how captivating certain chapters were. I think the romance and the tension between them could have been done better and more strongly without losing its flavor, but it is what it is. 
Grade: 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment