Did you ever see Quentin Tarantino’s action movie, From Dusk to Dawn? It was Tarantino’s next movie after Pulp Fiction, and still being fairly new to Tarantino, we rented it with no knowledge of the story. Halfway through, while minding my own business, vampires shot out of their rendezvous strip joint.
That’s right, I said vampires. What does that have to do with Pulp Fiction? Absolutely nothing. Which is what makes it so awesome! I love an unexpected twist. That’s why I’ve been a fan of Catherine Coulter’s for such a long time—the suspenseful twists and turns in her stories that call to me like a Siren.
The Edge (2000) has quite the surprise twist. You might recognize Ford MacDougal from The Maze; he was (Lacey) Sherlock’s FBI partner until she met and fell in love with her alliterative husband (Dillon) Savich. When Ford’s sister, Jilly, is gravely injured after driving her Porsche off an Oregon cliff, he experiences the whole episode with her from his hospital recovery bed—in Maryland at Bethesda Naval Hospital. And since Coulter writes the story in first person through Ford’s eyes, we get to experience all the anguish and confusion and fear bombarding him throughout the whole ordeal. When he’s well enough to travel, he heads for the West Coast. But hours after Jilly comes out of her coma, she’s kidnapped. And now Ford’s on the chase.
Seems like a good setup, right? A little ESP, a little search and rescue, a little FBI intrigue. Nope. Here’s a hint with what happens to the woman he meets and falls in love with, Laura:
I knew I was awake because I heard myself moaning. But there wasn’t any pain. Laura was calling my name over and over. “Mac, don’t do this. Please, please, Mac, stop. Wake up!”
I opened my eyes and stared down into Laura’s face. “Oh God, you’re awake. Mac, you’ve got to stop.”
For a moment I didn’t know what she was talking about. Stop what? “Mac, please, get away. Stop it, Mac.”
No, I wasn’t feeling any pain, but what I was feeling was harsh and real. It was shattering me. I didn’t understand it.
“Mac, wake up!”
I was on top of her. She was naked and I was naked as well and between her legs. I was poised to come into her. I felt such overwhelming lust, I didn’t think I could stop.
You never would’ve guessed at the end of Chapter Nineteen that Laura and Ford were the unwitting participants in the trial of a killer date rape drug by a South American drug syndicate. Oh, my God, I love stories like this. Racing through the jungle, fighting the goons dressed up in paramilitary gear. The cheesy bi-lingual dialogue. It’s like crack to this ’80s era Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger fan.
And one of the greatest scenes in the history of … ever … is in this story. It’s almost as good as a great slap in a movie.
“Laura, there’s time for us to make love. Let’s do it right here, right now. I’ve got to—”
“Mac, stop it!”
I grabbed a moment of reason and choked out, “It’s hit me again, Laura. I don’t know if I can control it. I’ll hurt you. Get the hell out of here, now. Run!”
“Mac, you can control it, you did it before!”
“Please, Laura.” I was on her again, knocking her backward. She hit a tree but didn’t fall. Instead of running, she stepped forward and kicked me in the balls. My breath whooshed out. The pain blanked anything in my brain. And I stood there, bent over like an old man, knowing the pain was going to get worse, much worse. And it did. I moaned, clutched myself, and folded over. I waited for the god-awful agony to lessen. I simply tried to breathe and not fall on the ground and weep like a baby. Laura was standing not three feet in front of me, not saying a word.
“Good shot.” I said when I could get the words out.
My other favorite Coulter book, Impulse, happens to have a great suspenseful twist, too…one steeped in art history under the guise of Rembrandt’s Bathsheba. Superficially we have a wealthy, powerful arms dealer who lives and runs his operations from his private island compound in the Caribbean. And we’re not talking Disneyland, people. But the menace beneath might just be a rope-a-dope from a wealthy, powerful New Englander.
Our heroine, Rafaella Holland, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She’s out for revenge for her mother, who had the serious misfortune of falling in love with Dominick Giovanni—the arms dealer.
The whole story could be a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of vanity. Rafaella’s mother for falling in love with a sexy, dangerous stranger. Dominick for being pulled into Rafaella’s ruse of writing his biography. Her powerful stepfather, Charles Winston Rugledge III, for trying to manipulate Dominick. After all, had both said ‘no,’ the story may have never been told.
Dominick is narcissistic and paranoid, and leads an organization of dangerous criminals—including his malicious son—and is not to be messed with. The whole compound is like a blooming Foxglove: lovely from a distance, but you’re likely to die if you get close enough to touch it (digitalis = death for some). And to top it off, Dominick’s got a bodyguard who’s the biggest bastard of all: Marcus Devlin.
Probably Ms. Rafaella Holland, like everyone else, was loaded with half-truths. She was young, but she looked strangely intent, her eyes older than her years would indicate. She looked as if she had to concentrate, had to figure out something, and whatever it was, was very important to her.
Bastard, though he is, Marcus is also so easy to fall for. He’s handsome, suave, debonair…like a MUCH less wimpy James Bond. He’s the Daniel Craig Bond, not Roger Moore. And he falls fast and hard to Rafaella. What’s not to love about that? But secrets can get you killed, and Marcus has his share of them, too. That’s the beauty of an unexpected twist. You’ve got to read to the very end to figure it out.
Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and in the spring of 2012, her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.