Book review: “The Breathtaker” by Alice Blanchard

Enjoying both tornadoes and mystery novels, Alice Blanchard’s 2003 work The Breathtaker seemed a natural fit for me.  In a sense, it was.  I read it much faster than I normally read books, and I found myself trying to guess the twists along the way.  However, I found the ending to be completely unsatisfactory.   The killer, as always, is not who the reader thinks it is, and when it was revealed, I found myself quite surprised.  There was no way I saw that coming.  The killer’s reason becomes clear as well, but it is never explained why the victims are selected.  The killer says that there are people “so evil…they deserve to die,” yet it is never explained what made these particular victims evil.  In fact, the killer’s motivation in the final chapters is decidedly unclear.  My initial thought upon finishing the book was “well, where’s the rest of the story?”

I will say this: Blanchard did her homework. Although there are a few parts that offended the meteorologist in me, the terminology and weather descriptions were fairly accurate throughout, even if the references were a bit forced in a few places. Certainly the novel is far ahead of other artistic works in that regard (I’m looking at you, “Twister”!)

The most annoying part of this book for me was the writing style.  There were a few points where I had to stop reading because I felt the descriptions and dialogue were trying way too hard. Blanchard suffers from the same problem that I’ve noticed in other female authors: unconvincing male dialogue (before anyone gets up in arms, I’m sure there are many men who do not write convincing female dialogue). All-in-all, though, the book is an enjoyable read, and it’s not likely that most readers will guess who the killer is before the protagonist does. If you’ve got a free weekend and you want to never see a thunderstorm the same way again, give this one a try.