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Christina Dodd’s latest novel has predictable plot

September 8, 2014

“Virtue Falls” (St. Martin’s Press), by Christina Dodd

Christina Dodd’s storytelling skills keep her latest novel, “Virtue Falls,” on track as she weaves a tale of a young woman trying to come to terms with her violent family history in a beautiful, remote section of Washington State that has been hit by a major earthquake.

If only the plot weren’t so predictable, the dialogue so banal and the characters straight out of a television movie. Yet despite these deficiencies, Dodd creates a fast-paced story. (And besides, there’s a reason why TV movies are so popular.)

Geologist Elizabeth Banner returns to her hometown of Virtue Falls, Washington, to study the state’s coastline. But Elizabeth also has a personal reason. Her father, Charles, has been paroled to a local nursing facility because he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Elizabeth hasn’t seen him since he was convicted of the brutal murder of her mother, Misty, that she may have witnessed when she was 4 years old. Elizabeth is both interested and appalled by Charles, once a noted geologist himself, who has always maintained his innocence.

When an earthquake hits Virtue Falls, with an attendant tsunami and aftershocks, Elizabeth conducts groundbreaking work. Without electricity and with many of its buildings destroyed, Virtue Falls is even more isolated, forcing Elizabeth to spend time with her father. Could Charles be innocent, especially since a serial killer whose method of mutilating young women and their children in the same manner that Misty was murdered has resurfaced after 23 years? “Virtue Falls” is riddled with too many suspects, including a creepy sheriff whose career was built on Charles’ arrest.

While the emotionally isolated Elizabeth’s reconnection with her ex-husband, Garik, a former FBI agent, offers no surprises, Dodd skillfully shows her personal growth through this relationship. The coastline of Washington isn’t just pretty scenery; its fragile landscape and steep cliffs parallel the characters’ lives.

The first of a new suspense series, “Virtue Falls” doesn’t break new ground for Dodd, but the author’s trademark combination of romance and mystery show why she is a perennial on best-seller lists.




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