May 13 2015 3:30pm

Sex (and Suspense) with the Ex in Susanne Matthews’ White Carnation

The White Carnation by Susanne Matthews

Once upon a blogpost, I asked readers if they’d ever seen Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk to Dawn… an unexpected vampire tale. But I can also ask if you’ve ever read Catherine Coulter’s classic romantic suspense, The Edge. It’s also got a fantastic unexpected plot twist. If you like either of those, then Susanne MatthewsThe White Carnation will be like catnip.

I love any story that has an investigative journalist as a key character. And an investigative journalist who’s been demoted because of scandalous happenings? Ohmigod, count me in. Faye Lewis is foundering in the society pages of the Boston Examiner, despondent as her IQ plunges with every story she writes about dog-show judges and their patrons.

Until eighteen months ago, Faye’s life was all smooth sailing. She was a top-notch investigative journalist with a great newspaper, with a sharp mind and killer instincts. Engaged to the handsome detective Rob Halliday, who met her after she’d been stabbed while covering a story. Theirs had been a combustible introduction that had burned bright and hot … and ultimately out.

Out of the blue one day, she gets a call from her best friend’s mother with an urgent request to visit: “I wouldn’t bother you, but I can’t think of anyone else who could help me.”

And we all know how that goes … DON’T GO! But Faye’s able to work in a trip to Lucy’s apartment on her way home from covering a society assignment. Her biggest cheerleader at the Boston Examiner is Jimmy, a young photographer.

He’d been her shadow for almost a year until the debacle that cost her a spot on the crime beat. Now, he joined her as often as he could, but there really wasn’t anything too exciting in the world of dog shows or debutantes.

She’s got another cheerleader of the secret admirer type, who has taken to leaving her a single white carnation (her favorite flower) from time to time.

Grabbing the white carnation with the rainbow ribbon that her secret admirer had left on the windshield this morning, she got out of the car. That flower was the only bright spot in her otherwise dismal day. As always, there’d been no card. The individual flowers, their stems tucked in micro-vases that held the precious water needed, arrived on a more or less regular basis. This was the fourth—no, the fifth one.

Since covering an engagement tea didn’t require a photographer, Faye goes alone. Armed with the carnation to share with Lucy, she heads to Lucy’s apartment in Boston’s wealthy Beacon Hill neighborhood. Bad luck shadows her like a cartoon rainy cloud overhead, and she is nearly knocked down when she’s walking up the stairs. It’s too bad she didn’t take a photographer with her because she arrives to a gruesome crime scene: Lucy has been murdered.

The first person Faye calls is her estranged fiancée, Rob. Since the two haven’t spoken since their very public split, he knows Faye is desperate for help.

With a shaking hand, she pulled her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and dialed a familiar number.

“Homicide, Rob Halliday.” The voice was tired, bored, resigned.

“Rob, it’s Faye. She’s dead. Lucy Green’s dead. There’s so much blood. Someone’s murdered Mary’s mother.”

“Where are you?” Rob was all business, as if there was no painful history between them. Deep down, she knew this no-nonsense, professional side of him was what she needed, why she’d called him and not 9-1-1.

“Third floor, seventeen thirty-seven Marlborough. It’s in Beacon Hill.”

“I know where the damn street is, Faye. Stay there, and don’t touch anything. I’m on my way.”

History has a way of smoothing out the rough spots. Under normal circumstances, Faye would’ve happily gone the rest of her life without speaking to Rob again. He probably would’ve been just as satisfied, though we learn that there’s MUCH more to the story of their breakup than either actually realize—so it’s good Fate intervened. Because while it seems obvious that the lives of a homicide detective hot on the trails of a serial killer and a smart-as-a-whip investigative reporter on the crime beat would intersect, what’s less obvious is that the two could actually exist with harmony.

Your fiancée—Amos’s words were true once, but never again. There was no way Rob would hitch his wagon to a woman who could believe he’d betray her like that, a woman who’d put her job so far ahead of him, he’d barely been on her radar at times. The sex had been great, but love was supposed to be more than that. Still, she’d reached out to him.

As it becomes evident that Lucy’s killer has Faye in his sights, AND the killer is likely the serial killer known as the Harvester, Rob and Faye are forced to work together to stay alive.

“We’ll do our best, Faye. That’s why we need your help, your insight.”
. . .

“At this point, everything is jumbled in my mind. I can’t tell the difference between evidence and my suppositions.”

“So, how do I fit in? How can I help? I’m one of these cases, aren’t I?”

“You are, but you’re also one of the top investigative reporters in the Boston area. We need fresh eyes on this, educated eyes that may see thigns differently than we do. I’ve always admired your ability to add two and two and get five. You find what everyone else misses. Being part of this investigation and helping take down the Harvester will be a hell of a coup.”

Isn’t it funny that logic would be the thing that tips two characters over the edge to fall in love again, not emotion? What a great twist. There’s another great twist with the overall plot that will make you think about my Tarantino and Coulter allusion. What befalls the women in this story is not what you would ever expect.


Learn more about or order a copy of The White Carnation by Susanne Matthews, available now:

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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 this year 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.

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1 comment
1. Kareni
This does sound intriguing! Thanks for the review.
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