Author: Brooke Morgan
Release Date: December 1, 2009
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Holly Barrett’s life hasn’t exactly gone as planned. She got pregnant in high school, and while she adores her daughter, Katy, Holly has hidden from the world with her grandfather in her small Cape Cod town. But when she has a chance meeting with Jack, a charming British stranger, Holly begins to wonder if she might find love in her life after all. As she becomes closer to Jack, those around her begin to wonder if Jack is really as harmless as he seems.
Tainted is a psychological thriller that doesn’t really show its true colors until halfway through the book. At the beginning, it seems like an innocuous women’s fiction novel about Holly Barrett’s path towards learning to live her life again. Jack seems like just the ticket – he’s smart, handsome, and really seems to adore Holly and embraces Katy as his own daughter. But as the novel progresses, Jack’s temper begins to surface and his actions become emotionally abusive. It’s really interesting how subtly Morgan writes this; Jack’s negative actions creep up on the reader, such that even they are trying to make excuses for his bad behavior.
Holly is an endearing, if naïve main character. She’s incredibly young for what she’s experienced in her life. Just twenty three years old, she has seen both of her parents die and has a daughter of her own. While in some ways, she seems wise beyond her years, it is clear she has never been in a relationship. It’s easy to understand how she writes off Jack’s negative tendencies, though frustrating at times because the reader wants her to have more sense. However, Holly’s actions are consistent with that of an abused woman, and readers can’t help but feel for her.
Morgan does a wonderful job ratcheting up the suspense of Tainted. It seems like a completely different novel three quarters of the way in than it was one quarter of the way in, yet the novel as a whole is seamless. It’s a great, easy thriller that will keep readers hooked from beginning to end.