Depth Perception, by Linda Castillo

>> Monday, April 10, 2006

Linda Castillo was one of my best discoveries last year. Her The Shadow Side and The Perfect Victim were really solid, fresh romantic suspense, and her backlist of RS single titles looked interesting as well.

Depth Perception (excerpt) is a 2005 release, and one that I had actually decided not to read when it first came to my attention, after checking out the subject matter. After actually reading other Castillo titles, however, I decided to trust her enough to give it a try.

Nat Jennings nearly died the night her family was murdered—and spent the next three years wishing she had. Now she is returning to the bayou town of Bellerose, Louisiana, driven by cryptic messages only she can hear—messages pleading for her help . . .

After serving six years for a crime he didn't commit, Nick Bastille is back in Bellerose, mourning his precious son, who drowned while Nick was in prison, unable to protect him. But when Nat approaches him with a shocking revelation, his denial slowly turns into a desire for revenge.

Together they will hunt for a merciless killer who nearly destroyed them both once before—and is now preparing to finish them off once and for all . . .
Depth Perception is a dark, scary and depressing book. It's also very, very good, both in the suspense and the romance department. A B+

Considering the book deals with child killings and that two the dead little boys were actually the sons of the hero and heroine, the book can't be anything but dark. Nat Jennings husband and son were killed three years ago, and after becoming the main suspect Nat tried to kill herself. This left her in a coma for over two years, and when she woke up, she discovered something had altered in her mind. She periodically has "fits", in which she writes messages from her dead son, Kyle. And Kyle is telling her his murderer has killed other children, children whose deaths everyone thinks were accidents.

One of those children Kyle mentions is Nick Bastille's son, who drowned while Nick was in prison after being set up by his former partner. Nick escaped Bellerose as soon as he could, and had made it big in New Orleans, but now he has nothing, so he returns to his father's farm in the town he hasn't seen in 18 years.

When a strange woman approaches him and tells him his son didn't die accidentally, but was murdered, Nick's first reaction is to get pissed off. Where does this woman get off, telling him that? But Nat soon proves to him that she does have a psychic connection with her son, and she and Nick join forces to try to find the murderer.

Both Nick and Nat are very well done characters, two very damaged people who, nonetheless, manage to find immense strength inside themselves. And it takes lots of strength to even be in Bellerose, especially for Nat, because this is a town full of people who think she killed her husband and son and who don't hesitate to punish her for it. This is a truly awful place for them to be in, with corrupt police harassing them and powerful people (including Nat's former father- amd brother-in-law) making their lives hell. I've read plenty of books in which one of the characters puts him or herself in a similar position and I usually just want to scream at them to just leave, why the hell are they in that disgusting town with those disgusting people? Think Linda Howard's After the Night, for instance. I enjoyed the book, but I never really bought that Faith would put herself through the awful experience of moving back to that small town just to investigate the disappearance of that guy who meant nothing to her.

In the case of Depth Perception, I never had that feeling. Nat started out the book as someone who was completely empty, except for a burning need to see justice done and her son's murderer punished. And Nick, while not damaged to the level that Nat was, was pretty desperate, too, especially once he accepts that what happened to his son wasn't an accident. This all justified that they wouldn't immediately hightailed it out of there. And I really liked that they don't decide to stay in Bellerose at the end of the book, once the truth comes out. I would have liked it better if I could have seen them rubbing their innocence in those judgemental people's faces, but all right, I see why Castillo would leave things where she left them.

In spite of the frustration of seeing Nat and Nick battle against unhelpful police and vengeful neighbours, I really liked the investigation aspect of the book, especially because the psychic element of it was intriguing and very satisfyingly done. I especially liked that there was no "am I going crazy" shit on Nat's part. By the start of the book, she has already dealt with the doubts and has very logically managed to prove to herself that she's not just writing things down that she already knew. This means that when she convinces Nick, they are able to use her psychic abilities logically and do the best they can with them to help their cause and find the villain.

And speaking of the villain, I thought that he wasn't particularly subtly drawn. I mean, we do get some insight into why he became what he became, and I did like that he wasn't just someone who was evil just because he wanted to be evil, but the whole thing about his childhood was a bit over-the-top. The final confrontation was well done, though.

As I mentioned above, this is romantic suspense, and the romance very definitely does not get overwhelmed by the suspense. After only a couple of pages, seeing just how grim the story was going to be, I wondered if the romance wouldn't feel inappropriate. Well, it didn't, even though it was quite a steamy one, too. I think what I liked best was how there was an element of healing in it, how it was a way for them to console each other. But, and this is important, it wasn't all it was. It wasn't just healing, and I bought that these two were going to be together after a while, and I appreciated that we didn't get some kind of saccharine epilogue showing them deliriously happy. What we got was just perfect, and went well with this very good book.


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