The Edge of Fear

Fiction - Womens
168 Pages
Reviewed on 09/16/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

In her exciting novel The Edge of Fear, author Maura Beth Brennan creates an intense and harrowing tale of child abduction and filial love. In a conversation with an investigator, Hattie Matheson, the protagonist, sums up the situation by telling an investigator that her ex-husband kidnapped her daughter. Hattie is remarried; the ex is not the child’s father; the police are looking for them. Much of the fast-moving plot is to set up in that quick summary. We meet Hattie who has recovered from past trauma and is living with Eli, her present spouse, their three-year-old daughter Lilly, their rich, elderly sponsor Agnes, and their hundred-pound bloodhound Max, as they get along happily on the coast of Maine. Then we meet Frank, Hattie’s ex and the villain of the piece. Brennan knows how to create a villain. And how! He’s a street thug and hustler, a wife abuser who holds a grudge against Hattie and sees getting even as a way to cash in on a big score in the bargain. He hatches a devious plot that involves new identities, disguises, deception, kidnapping and camping in the New Jersey pinelands.

In Maura Beth Brennan’s flawless prose, the story unfolds as smoothly as a brisk summer breeze. She’s also a master at characterization; all the players, even Max the dog, are thoroughly drawn. Then, too, she knows how to set a scene, especially those of domesticity and friendship. I appreciated her innovative structure, sectioning out Hattie’s and Frank’s points of view. Hattie tells her story in the first person (I), but the POV switches to the third person (he) for Frank. Thus, we have what I refer to as the “train wreck approach.” The reader sits above watching the two plots soon to collide. We know more than the characters do, so we see, and fear, what is about to happen. For instance, when Hattie spots a breakage in her garden fence, we know who put it there though she does not. When little Lilly’s disappearance goes unsolved, Hattie and her amusing friend Celine hop into an RV and take off to find the child. Somehow, they end up at a Walmart near Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. “Girlfriends—they’re the best,” Hattie says. Grab this book. You won’t put it down until the final page.

Lucinda E Clarke

Maura Beth Brennan’s The Edge of Fear tells the story of Hattie, once married to Frank who abused her. She escapes, settles in Maine, finds new love with Eli, and they have a daughter Lilly. All is well until Frank, discovering Hattie has a wealthy friend, travels from Florida to create havoc and get his revenge on his ex-wife. Two employees seek work at Eli’s furniture factory, and one of them is suspect. The family is thrown into turmoil and when Lilly disappears their happy world falls apart. So begins the race to rescue the child before it is too late. When a ransom demand falls through, Hattie knows it is up to her to rescue her child before Lilly is lost forever.

The Edge of Fear by Maura Beth Brennan is a well-written thriller that I read in one day. It moves at a steady pace with well-drawn characters, including several minor ones who each play a recognizable part. Hattie, the heroine, is tested to the limit yet the plot is for the most part realistic. I particularly liked her best friend Celine, who is a complete contrast to Hattie. This book could almost be categorized as a Cozy Mystery, despite the gunshots and police involvement. The good characters are good and the bad ones irredeemable. The pace picks up even more towards the end and the finale is satisfactory, leaving the reader in a feel-good mood.