I'm back to doing Blog Tour Book Reviews, and today I have a quirky mystery to talk about.
Venom is the third novel by writer K.C. Grant, who was born in rural Idaho, but has spent much of her life living in northern Utah with her family. She is active in several writing associations, including the League of Utah Writers, which she has served as a chapter officer for three years. Her writing credits include magazine and newspaper articles and fiction. She has traveled extensively in Mexico, studied at a college in the Mexican state of Michoacán, and speaks Spanish.
When I first held a copy of Venom in my hands and saw the cover, I thought this would be a thriller set in Spain, but somewhere in Europe, for sure. Not so.
I learned by turning to the back cover that Venom is set, for the most part, in and around Mexico City. The surprise of having to change my mindset didn't last long, and once I began reading, I enjoyed the novel. It turns out to be more of a romantic mystery, with a big splash of "what did I get myself into?"
The back cover copy tells us that:
Samantha Evans is determined to make a name for herself in the cutthroat world of advertising. Newly hired by a prestigious ad agency, she volunteers to work on location in Mexico City as a personal assistant to the beautiful and driven creative director Katrina Edwards. At first the association seems promising. But Ms. Edwards seems preoccupied in a way that makes Samantha increasingly uneasy. In fact, many in the group seem like they are not being completely open about the project, including David Ayala, the mysterious and moody photographer for whose attention the two women find themselves competing. After several strange accidents and numerous appearances by an unknown man, Samantha discovers the truth: not everyone on the team is in Mexico to create a stellar advertising pitch. When her sleuthing leads to her abduction, she is brought to the pyramids of Teotihuacán, and comes face-to-face with the venomous evil of the South American crime boss known as The Serpent. Now Samantha must not only fight for her life, but she must also discover if she can trust the man she's come to love.
Samantha, a seemingly accident-prone young lady out of her element in the Big Wide World, desired to make a life for herself, to stand on her own two feet away from what she perceives to be a "perfect" family and siblings who always seemed to have it all and more of it than she gave herself credit for having and being. She agonized about a superior who clearly was engaging in sexual harassment, and I wished she would do something about it, but she never did take action, so one part of the ending satisfied me on that account. I thought introducing her odd-couple roommate, Terri, prolonged the beginning more than was necessary, and that story line might have been cut back. Other elements tended to keep me from the mystery part of the story longer than I liked.
I've always felt that the author's job is to drive his main character up a tree and throw rocks at him or her, and then to add crocodiles around the base of the tree so as to give good conflict to the story. Some of the situations in this novel were resolved too readily, and without great danger or peril, I felt a bit ambivalent about how much physical danger Sam truly was in. Sometimes, there was much more emotional angst going on.
Sam's adventures do lead us on a tour of many of the beautiful ruins and culturally iconic buildings around Mexico City. It brings to mind how many hidden crannies and dangerous areas ancient places have, and sets up the odd occurrences that befall Sam, but that doesn't explain why the people around her blow hot, then cold toward her. It's for you to read in order to find the answer.
Because this book is published by a press that aims its products toward the LDS (Mormon) reading market, it's entirely appropriate that the book entwines Sam's religious beliefs, her upbringing in a faith community, and her service as an LDS missionary into the story. However, it could be any-woman's story of trying to grow up and overcome difficulties in a high-powered job while at the same time yearning for her mom and dad when she finds herself in desperate circumstances. I hope the LDS-ness of the book doesn't overshadow the engaging story.
I was provided with a copy of this novel in order to read it for the Blog Tour. This circumstance did not influence my review in any way.
Venom is available at Deseretbook.com, Amazon.com, and at LDS bookstores. It may be purchased in print, as an electronic book, or as an audio book.