Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feature Review: "Dying Scream," By Mary Burton

By Becke Davis, RBTB Contributing Editor

“Walking Dead Man”

My aunt died suddenly at age 52. My uncle was out of town and later swore that she’d called and talked to him on the phone an hour after the coroner said she died. He is a very matter-of-fact guy, not prone to vivid flights of imagination, and this bothered him a lot. He didn’t know what to believe – that the dead could talk, or that he was losing his mind

In Mary Burton’s gripping and suspenseful “Dying Scream,” Adrianna Thornton can’t trust her own senses. Just as she’s about to put the past behind her, she starts hallucinating. What else can she call it when she hears her dead husband’s voice, when the scent of his cologne haunts her?

As the last surviving member of the wealthy Thornton family, she wants to sell the estate and move on. When a corpse is found on the Thornton property, the clues point to Adrianna’s husband, Craig, as the murderer. Only he can’t be connected to the crimes – because women are still dying. Cards and flowers arrive purporting to be from Craig, and Adrianna fears she’s losing her mind. And the detective assigned to the case is not a man she’s likely to confide in.

Detective Gage Hudson never trusted Craig Thornton, and it wasn’t just because he married the woman Gage wanted – he suspected Thornton was a psychopath. Craig Thornton was bad news, and Gage hadn’t mourned when the creep died and left Adrianna a widow. But when bodies start turning up on the Thornton estate, Gage is torn. He’d give anything to prove Thornton’s guilt, but he doesn’t want Adrianna hurt.

Gage suspects Adrianna is at the core of the mystery – either she’s involved up to her pearl-clad neck, or she’s the next victim. Gage has to find the murderer before he strikes again – and there’s more at risk than he suspects.

In “Dying Scream,” Mary Burton has written a mystery/suspense/thriller wrapped in a romance. But while the romance is important, the mystery is the focus. You never forget that lives are at stake, and then there’s the 100-thousand-dollar question: is Craig dead or alive? If you like mysteries seasoned with romance . . .

Buy the Book!

As I read “Dying Scream,” the thought running through my head wasn’t “Will Adrianna and Gage get their happy ending?” It was “Who is killing these women, and how will they catch him?” But then I like mystery as much as romance. Do you like mystery with threads of romance or a romance with elements of mystery? How would you define romantic suspense?


Mary Burton said...

Good Morning! Becke thanks for your review of DYING SCREAM. Romantic suspense is great fun for me to write because I love blending the strong emotions of the romance with the tension of the mystery. I've pitted DYING SCREAM'S Adrianna and Gage against a very scary villain that should keep readers guessing to the end.

Becke Davis said...

Mary - Thanks so much for joining us!

Romantic suspense AND mystery with romance have long been favorites of mine. I've been mulling over that distinction for quite awhile.

As a reader of both mystery and romance, I'm equally happy if no matter if a story has a mystery with romance or a romance with a mystery.

But I know some readers want a story to be all about the romance, and some mystery purists aren't crazy about romance.

Personally, I like them all, but I wondered what people expect when they see those words: romantic suspense.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! Becke, thanks for featuring Mary Burton today. She's such a marvelous person and writer, and I've long wanted to have her in the spotlight here. This dead/alive premise sounds really intriguing and maybe eerie. Does it have that feel, too?

And your discussion question is perfect ,at least for me. I once ranted to Amy Kennedy in the middle of the library where she works, "Look: It's either a romance, or a mystery. It has to decide what it is, because it can't be both!" While this was awhile back, though for a book to earn the romance tag for me, the 'how're they gonna end up together' has to be the strongest element. That said, I like when a mystery is sprinkled through.

Now, you/i have had lots of discussions about my not being particularly sophisticated when it omes to reading mystery. I get frustrated because I'm terrible at figuring out clues, and impatient. which doesn't make me a target audience. That's why you're here, of course.

But the other day, you spoke to me about authors who write love stories as if they're mysteries, with the 'how're they getting together' teased out. that really speaks to me, becaue when an author does that w/out any secondary storyline, etc., it's my fave.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Mary! Thanks for dropping in! I always enjoy running into you, and I was very excited when Becke said she'd like to feature your novel. Thanks for writing it!

amy kennedy said...

Becke, I so agree with you. I love mysteries -- it used to be all I read -- I love romances, I love them together or apart. I love them on a train, or in the rain...

Michelle, was it the Joyce books that started that rant? (It really was a rant -- a funny one though)Now look what's happened -- everything's mixed with something these days.

Most para's I read have a mystery or suspense edge to them, I want to be kept guessing.

Mary, it's so cool you stopped by, the book sounds great.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Becke, this book sounds fabulous! It's certainly going in the TBR.

When I was in grad school I was a mystery fanatic - loved Elizabeth George, PD James, etc.. But as I got older, I realized I found more enjoyment from reading romantic suspense. For me, it's not really the mystery element which intrigues anymore. It's the suspenseful situation and the danger, and how that affects the h/h and their relationship. I want to see how they interact with each, and how their relationship grows as a result of the situation they're in.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, nessa! I love how you've explained that last part. a h/hn walking through the fire and being changed always has appealed to me, too. sometimes it brings out good, others bad, but ultimate growth. I can imagine for those lucky enough to be able to hang in there with mysteries, that'd be enhanced when they move toward whodunnit.

I'm trying to make clear that it's not that I don't think mysteries are good, it's that I'm not much good at reading them. make sense?

Gannon Carr said...

This one sounds like a stay-up-half-the-night page-turner, Becke! Looks like I'll be adding another book to my list. *g*

It's the suspenseful situation and the danger, and how that affects the h/h and their relationship. I want to see how they interact with each, and how their relationship grows as a result of the situation they're in.

That's it exactly, Vanessa!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

It may have been the B Joyce, Ames. Although that may have been more about the love story being divided through books. I think I may have been going off about something which read,like, mysterymysterymystery-quickkiss-mysterymysterymystery-iloveyou-mysterymysterymysterysolved...

It was about expectation. The book looked to me like a 'romance.' so i expected the love story to be central. I love when publishers clearly label books w/ sub-genre. Even if their delineation is diff from another pub's, if it's consistent, consumers always know what they're getting.

amy kennedy said...

Vanessa -- perfect explanation. And Michelle, I get frustrated by the same thing. If I'm reading a mystery, I don't want a pretend romance -- one that has no relationship arc.

And I've always understood you felt /you weren't good at reading them. It makes me laugh, but it makes sense.

You're right the B Joyce thing was a diff rant.

Becke Davis said...

I don't know if I'll ever convert Michelle to mysteries, but she was one of the people who kept pushing me to read more historicals - and now I'm addicted.

But with me, mystery came first. I started with Nancy Drew and moved on to Agatha Christie and everything in between. I quickly fell in love with Mary Stewart's books, and I adored Evelyn Anthony - especially The Tamarind Seed.

Around that time I had an epiphany: my favorite mysteries were the ones that contained a romance. A few years later, I discovered Mills & Boon and mystery fell into second place for several years.

I've gone back and forth like that for decades. These days, romantic suspense is so strong I don't have to pick between the two -- there are so many books that have an emotionally satisfying romance AND a page-turning mystery. Throw in a twist ending and/or a mystery that keeps me guessing, and I'm in a state of bliss!

Becke Davis said...

Amy - I think I was a little dubious about romance at first. They got little respect then, so Kathleen Woodiwiss and Danielle Steel were my guilty pleasures.

Maeve Binchy's books were beautiful romances that took me to Ireland, and Dorothy Eden and Victoria Holt's gothics gave me both romance and suspense.

I loved an author named Velda Johnston, who wrote mysteries -- some had strong romances and those were the ones I liked best.

Becke Davis said...

Vanessa - I'm with you. The thing with mysteries is you can't always be sure you're going to get the happy ending. That's part of the suspense, but as a romance lover, I always feel let down when a book ends without an HEA. In romantic suspense, you are assured there will both a satisfactory solution to the mystery AND a happy ending.

Becke Davis said...

Gannon - I'm an obsessive reader, which really affects my sleep. Once I start a good book, I never want to put it down until I've finished. Of course, I don't always have that luxury!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Becke, your point about the happy endings was definitely a factor for me when I moved away from mysteries. It was actually Elizabeth George who did it when she killed off a major character, quite unnecessarily, I thought. I was furious, and vowed not to read her again. Silly, I know, but there you have it.

I make an exception with Anne Perry. Her series with William and Hester Monk is just great. It was great fun to watch their relationship develop.

Becke Davis said...

Elizabeth George was a guest on the Mystery book club board I moderate at B&N shortly after that book came out. It upset me, too -- still does -- but she wrote a great essay about an author's right to write a book however she wants, and to shake up a series if she feels it's necessary. I completely agree with her in theory, but I was really upset at the way that story ended.

Call me shallow if you want, but I read for enjoyment. I've read great literature and I still read all kinds of books, but mystery and romance novels give me pleasure. I'm at an age now where I don't care if people think I'm a sybarite when it comes to reading - I don't deny it.

There are books I read for edification and books I read out of curiosity, but the books I read on a daily basis are mysteries and romances that don't kill off the main characters at the end of the book. I want my happy ending!

There's enough tragedy and sorrow in real life. That's not what I want from books, but I also know we all have our own tastes. I'm only speaking for myself.

Stephanie said...

Mary - I can't wait to read this book. It sounds great!

Becke - I started out reading mysteries and only started reading romance in the last decade. For me they are both about justice. Romances are just books with emotionally just endings.

Vanessa - I'm with you on the Elizabeth George books. If the author wants to change the world of the books, that's her choice, but she has to realize that her readers may not want to go where she wants to take us and I think she heard that loud and clear now. Leaves more time for others;)

Mary Burton said...


I'm loving these great comments. And Michelle, thank you so much for having me today!

I'm with all of you. As much as I love developing the mystery, solving the puzzle and navigating characters through danger, I need that happy ending. For me, the happy ending symbolizes the hope that no matter how dark life gets, there is always a silver lining.

Becke Davis said...

Stephanie - I love this!

"Romances are just books with emotionally just endings."

Mary - I love this phrase of yours, too:

"navigating characters through danger"

I hadn't thought of it that way, but it's so true! We are trusting the author to navigate the hero and heroine to safety.

Becke Davis said...

Without giving anything away, I'll admit that one of things that hooked me into this story was the question of whether Craig was alive or dead.

As I mentioned, my uncle had an unusual experience when his wife died suddenly, and I've heard similar things from others.

Have any of you experienced anything like that? Or should I just say: do you believe in ghosts?

(And I'm not saying if this story involves a ghost or not. Read it and find out!)

Myrin said...

Becke, your review alone makes me want to know whether Graig is dead or alive and who's murdering the women!

I actually like reading anything although it bothers me a little when I read a book where there isn't the slightest hint of romance. But I absolutely adore a good novel where the focus is on solving the mystery. One of my favourite books of all time, Michael Ende's Neverending Story (I still have to start preparing my speech I have to tell in class next Tuesday and I so don't feel like doing it, ack!) does have neither romance nor mystery (as in thrilleresque - I know that word doesn't exist! - mystery, like 'whodunnit') in it and I still adooooore it! So I'd say it absolutely depends on the story.

I always define romantic suspense via Karen Rose. That is because she was the first romantic suspense author (I daresay she even was the first romance author) I ever read. So if it's anythink like Ka-Ro's books, it's romantic suspense! ;)

Becke Davis said...

Karen's books scare the pants off me.

There are a lot of authors I like who focus almost entirely on the suspense and mystery aspects and include little or no romance. If the plot sucks me in, I'm okay with that. I have to care about the main characters, though, and nothing ensures that more than a potential romance.

Mary Kennedy said...

This looks wonderful, I can't wait to read it! Mysteries and romance, a perfect mix.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Mary! This is one of my favorite subjects, as you know. Mary's new Talk Radio mystery series just debuted.

Anonymous said...

Lovely review, Becke! Sounds like a great read.


Becke Davis said...

Gia - great to see you here! I know a lot of the Bellas are more into romance than mystery, but I hope to sway some of you over to the dark side the same as Michelle and Melanie have lured me to historicals.