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The Breathtaker    by Alice Blanchard order for
by Alice Blanchard
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As if a tornado on the horizon were not terrifying enough, a serial killer is stalking the storms and adding to their victims in Alice Blanchard's horrifying new thriller, The Breathtaker.

It takes place in and around Promise, Oklahoma, whose Police Chief Charlie Grover makes an unusual hero. He's very personable despite the severe childhood burns that resulted in a 'crazy quilt of melted flesh' from his left earlobe to his ankle.

Charlie's beloved wife Maddie is dead, and his teen daughter Sophie is a good kid despite her attraction to the town's young black sheep, Boone Pritchett. Sophie pesters her dad to visit his father, Isaac, but Charlie finds the relationship difficult, remembering years of childhood abuse before his father stopped drinking, and blaming Isaac for the fire that scarred Charlie and killed his mother and small sister.

It's tornado season, and as the storms strike, so does the killer, whose signature is to leave teeth in the mouths of his victims. As it becomes evident to Charlie that the murderer must be an expert in the prediction of storm paths, he starts to suspect people that he knows, including one of his officers, and his own father, an avid storm-chaser.

The Chief consults wind expert, self-styled 'adrenaline junkie' Willa Bellman, and a romance gradually develops between the two. The tale builds sharply to a breathtaking conclusion, in which Charlie meets the killer and finally makes peace with his father in the heart of a tornado.

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