On Sunday, I felt convicted to give a day to the Lord, so instead of writing, I read a book I've been looking forward to for a while, "Stain of Guilt" by Brandilyn Collins, book 2 in her "Hidden Faces" series.
From the back cover:
As I drew, the house felt eerie in its silence. . . . A strange sense stole over me, as though Bland and I were two actors on stage, our movements spotlighted, black emptiness between us. But that darkness grew smaller as the space between us shrank. I did not know if this sense was due to my immersion in Bland’s face and mind and world, or to my fear of his threatening presence. Or both . . . The nerves between my shoulder blades began to tingle. Help me, God. Please.
For twenty years, a killer has eluded capture for a brutal double murder. Now, forensic artist Annie Kingston has agreed to draw the updated face of Bill Bland for the popular television show American Fugitive.
To do so, Annie must immerse herself in Bland’s traits and personality. A single habitual expression could alter the way his face has aged. But as she descends into his criminal mind and world, someone is determined to stop her. At any cost. Annie’s one hope is to complete the drawing and pray it leads authorities to Bland--before Bland can get to her.
Incredibly exciting reading. As in book 1, "Brink of Death," the novel opens like the gentle prelude to a symphony, then screeches off like a tire-burning corvette disappearing down the street. I started reading it Sunday afternoon and couldn't stop until I finished that night.
Annie Kingston's character was complex, and I could relate to her inner fears, spiritual questions and maternal ferocity. She was not a superwoman performing feats of courage or displaying acute intellectual insight. She was a real woman like me or anyone else, caught in a dire situation. Her questions about God echoed what I asked when I was seeking Him, and the minor characters answered with gentleness, honesty and empathy.
The villain Bland was drawn with such vivid description that I could envision his face, hear his voice. He character had immense depth and richness. Annie literally crawled into his head and dragged the reader with her as she discovered who he was under the surface, what made up the mind of this ruthless man.
Even the minor characters--Annie's children, her sister, etc.--had that aura of realism that made them colorful and varied. I could name someone I knew who reminded me of each character. This aspect drew me into the story quickly because I felt like I knew these people, they were familiar to me.
There was a doozy of a plot twist near the end, and Brandilyn did a very good job leading up to it. However, I think I've read too much Agatha Christie, because I guessed the plot twist in the first quarter of the book. But that being said, it didn't make the ending any less heart-pounding, nail-biting, or satisfying.
You don't really need to read the first book to enjoy this sequel, but "Brink of Death" does add to the backstory and introduces character relationships that, in this novel, are subtly shifting and growing. While "Brink of Death" was more plot-driven, "Stain of Guilt" is definitely more character-driven. It's primarily the cast of this play that keeps the reader's attention, with the story action as background movement.
In all, I highly recommend this title. A very engrossing read.