Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Book Review: 'Poisonous' by Allison Brennan
New Yorker Maxine Revere revisits cold cases on her cable television show, “Maximum Exposure.” She speaks with the police, interviews witnesses, brings in an expert forensics team to examine the physical evidence, and ultimately tries to learn who committed unsolved crimes. After receiving a poignant letter from eighteen-year-old Tommy Wallace (a sweet-natured and lonely boy who is intellectually challenged), Max visits Corte Madera, California, where Tommy’s stepsister, Ivy Lake, fell from a cliff to her death. Unfortunately, Ivy’s mother, Paula believes that Tommy murdered Ivy. She has ordered him to stay away from her son, thirteen-year-old Austin, who is Tommy's best friend. Tommy wants Max to identify the real culprit so that he can mend fences with Paula and spend more time with Austin.
“Poisonous,” by Allison Brennan, is a hard-hitting and lively thriller. Brennan skewers those who use social media as a tool to humiliate others; men and women who take their frustrations out on their ex-spouses; and exploitative journalists. Max is tough, independent, and tenacious. She is also highly strung, suffers from insomnia, broods about the past, and worries about her relationship with her lover, Nick, whose ex-wife is no Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Revere swoops down on Corte Madera with her personal assistant, best friend, and business partner, David Kane, but they face hostility and duplicity from all sides. Because almost everyone has something to hide, Ivy’s killer may well go unpunished.
Although, for the most part, "Poisonous" is suspenseful and gripping, its contrived, dense, and overwrought plot keeps it from receiving an unqualified recommendation. Brennan gives us glimpses of Max’s and David’s bleak histories; both have endured horrendous traumas that left them emotionally scarred. In addition, the two investigators grill persons of interest in the Ivy Lake case multiple times, going over the same ground repeatedly in an effort to separate fact from fiction. We wonder: Are Max and David providing closure for Ivy’s grieving parents or are they stirring up a hornet’s nest? Max Revere is, at heart, a good woman and an honest reporter, but her unflinching search for the truth may have unintended consequences.
Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right