Action-Packed Judgment Day Proves Too Shallow

Kelley Mathews

Author:  Wanda Dyson

Title:  Judgment Day

Publisher:  WaterBrook Press

Shoddy journalism, embellished details, unchecked sources—news show host Suzanne Kidwell is teetering on the edge of professional disaster. Her cable show "Judgment Day" caters to viewers hungry for scandal, and she gives them everything they want and more. So what if she occasionally has to get creative with the facts?

Her latest exposé, on a U.S. senator, might prove to be her last. Her car is tampered with and ends up exploding, driven unexpectedly by her physician fiancé. Shortly thereafter, the now-deceased fiancé's nurse is found dead in Suzanne's home. When Suzanne is arrested for murder, she finally realizes that she's a target. Someone wants to stop her. Why? What sort of incriminating information does she have, and on whom? Even Suzanne isn't sure which of her sensationalist reports might have stirred this sort of chaos.

In the meantime, teenagers are disappearing. Private investigators Marcus Crisp and Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne are focused on finding two local teens when Suzanne's lawyer begs them to take her case. While there is bad blood between Marcus and Suzanne, dating back to their broken engagement during college, the investigators reluctantly accept the assignment. Soon, they too are the targets of life-threatening attacks. And, inevitably, the two cases soon overlap, providing a nifty resolution to both.

The story moves at hyper-speed, taking the reader on an action-packed ride through journalism back-room machinations, political intrigue, medical malpractice, and murder. Wanda Dyson knows how to spin an entertaining yarn that keeps the pages turning. If you are looking for a shallow, fun, fast-moving suspense novel, you'll enjoy Judgment Day.

Unfortunately, I wasn't looking for a shallow, plot-driven book. Action and suspense are great when the characters make you root for them. But Suzanne is one of the least likeable protagonists I've encountered. She admits to fudging the facts in order to gain the best television ratings, and to manipulating people in her quest for advancement. Her mourning for her murdered fiancé is brief and insignificant. Her self-centeredness permeates almost every scene. I found it difficult to cheer for her, which influenced my view of the entire plot.

Several characters serve one-dimensional purposes. Minor plot threads were too easily wrapped up. The villain's identity was evident quite early, so the surprise factor lay not in "who dun it?" but in how events would tie together and end.

My favorite characters are Marcus and Alex. Their complex relationship provided some of the best scenes and dialogue in the book. Readers will actually like them and root for them. Perhaps if Dyson had woven the story around them, instead of Suzanne, readers would be more invested in the outcome.

Finally, I was disappointed in how the characters' spiritual lives affected them or were changed by events. References to faith are few. Towards the conclusion Suzanne becomes more aware of her faults and seeks a new way, but her conviction is too pat. It just doesn't ring true.

Those looking for a fast, entertaining suspense novel will enjoy Dyson's latest. But readers seeking more comprehensively written characters and stronger writing overall should look elsewhere.

**This review first published on October 25, 2010.