Shark Bait by Nancy E. Miller
Mental health counselor Kate Ainsworth received the call from Det. Rayder summoning her to the beach. Never did she guess that the trip involved a client’s head washed up on shore. Murder and mayhem ensue with Kate in the crosshairs. Ben Rayder is set to protect the woman he loves and track down the murderer, hoping it is her pesky ex-husband just so he can arrest the rich bum. Can he convince her to give love a second chance after devastating betrayal? But first, he must protect her from becoming shark bait.
Reviewed by: Katheryn J. Avila
Rating: 4.5 stars
It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a romantic thriller. They’re not usually my cup of tea, but I gave this one a shot when I read the blurb, since I’m a huge fan of police procedurals. Cop dramas, though everywhere on TV nowadays, don’t pop up in books I come across much, so I was eager to pick this one up. It didn’t disappoint!
The author crafts an intriguing mystery with clues scattered throughout the story in a way only talented mystery writers can. I’ve always envied that ability in mystery writers. It takes a lot of concentration and attention to detail so no plot point goes unsolved, and this is about as airtight as a piece of writing can get! That’s what’s fun about mysteries to me – they always tie up nicely. And it’s not just about the mystery, either – Miller brings to life a great cast of characters. From the rich, bratty ex-husband to the motherly neighbor, every character brings their own weight, their own background to the story, so they all feel like very real people.
As far as the protagonists go, Kate and Ben were fun to follow around. Kate is strong, yet vulnerable – a balance that is sometimes difficult to manage in a leading lady, yet Miller writes her so easily, so she never comes across as too perfect or too damaged – just human. Ben is much the same way. Of course, both characters are not without their flaws, and each of them made me put the book down and face-palm at different intervals with a couple of choices they make. That’s not a mark against the story, though – that’s a testament to how invested I was in what happened to them.
My favorite aspect of the book, though, wasn’t the characters or the mystery, but how well the writer handled the topic of mental health. Too often in books and movies people with mental health issues are made to seem like the villain (Split, The Visit, etc), when in reality they’re much more likely to be victims. Miller presents us with the point of view of not only someone who’s made it her life’s career to help the mentally ill, but someone who suffers from her own demons, as well. And Kate spends the book advocating for her clients, weaving in small lessons on compassion and understanding. That, by far, is what really reeled me in. It was the cherry on top of already well-crafted characters and story.
All in all, it was a great book! I only don’t give it 5 stars because there was a point in the story where I could accurately predict the ending, and I was hoping to be surprised. So half a star for predictability, but 4.5 stars is still nothing to scoff at! If you enjoy a good mystery, well-written romance, and nuanced characters, don’t let Shark Bait pass you by!