For the last few weeks I’ve been doing battle with seemingly endless rounds of snow, freezing rain, and a reoccurring bout of bronchitis that have all left me under the weather in one manner or another. Between sore muscles and a sore throat I’ve spent more time than usual wrapped in blankets and resting, thought there is one positive to it all. Unable to do much else beside recuperate, (it seems these cold meds are playing havoc with the ‘writing’ portion of my brain) I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on my reading. My TBR list had grown quite sizable and it’s been enjoyable to escape into the pages of a good story such as Surface Tension. Christine Kling’s books had been on my reading list long before Write On The Water ever found me; I’d heard from several friends that her Seychelle Sullivan series would appeal to me. Here’s the description from Publisher’s Weekly:
In this strong suspense debut, Seychelle Sullivan owns a salvage tug near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and makes a precarious living piloting luxury yachts and sportfishing boats in the Florida waters. When her radio picks up a distress call from the Top Ten, she hurries to the scene, hoping to net a windfall. The luxurious yacht is skippered by her former lover, Neal, who seems to have abandoned ship and left a dead body behind. Who is the dead girl, where is Neal, why do the police suspect Seychelle, and how much can she hope to recover for salvaging the yacht? When she finds her modest cottage has been searched and her stash of emergency money is missing, she figures Neal must be alive, hiding from the police or from the girl’s killer. The Top Ten’s representative offers a paltry sum to settle the salvage claim, so Seychelle decides to find out who the real owner is and go to arbitration. As the tension and suspense build, Seychelle’s existence becomes increasingly precarious. Kling vividly portrays a characteristic dichotomy of the Sunshine State-native Floridians trying to earn an honest living in an atmosphere where anything and anyone can be tainted by loan sharks, drug money or worse. As a female tugboat captain, Seychelle is one of the genre’s more unusual amateur sleuths, and Kling makes her one of its more endearing ones as well.
Hmmm. A smart, tough, believable female protagonist, a tugboat captain running a salvage business in Fort Lauderdale, that sounds like my kind character. The story wasted no time diving right into the action and I was immediately hooked. Seychelle comes to life on the pages as both capable and likable, intelligent and take-charge, and Kling does a superb job of presenting scenes in vivid detail, both visually and emotionally, without slowing the story for one second. Without question, Kling knows her territory, both regionally and with boats, and this knowledge made this story all the more enjoyable. Her writing flows in a smooth, un-distracting way that draws the reader right in there with her characters, which is perfect as this is a highly-character driven story. The characters themselves, from Seychelle to her friends, foes and beyond, are all well-fleshed out and multi-dimensional. The dialog is natural and believable, with a subtle range that distinguishes each of the various characters quite nicely. The plot is well paced; it unfolds in layers that weave together in a way that kept me guessing, and though I had my suspicions there were a few surprises that did a nice job of sneaking up on me. And the end wraps everything up in a very satisfying way – there’s no question I’ll be reading more from Christine Kling!