In Judgment Day, by Wanda L. Dyson, Suzanne Kidwell is a TV journalist who will stop at nothing to get the news story she wants, even if it means fudging the details. She doesn’t care if her report ruins an innocent person’s life. When she finds her own life in danger and realizes how many enemies she’s created, she begins to see her world and her work in a different light.
Dyson has constructed a pretty good mystery. As the novel begins, Suzanne gets a tidbit of gossip from a cop and reports that a school principal is the suspect in the disappearance of two teenage students. The principal is not involved, but under the cloud of suspicion, he ends up committing. Meanwhile, Suzanne’s would-be fiancé is killed in a car wreck. None of this matters too much to Suzanne, but when she wakes up in a drunken haze next to a dead body, she realizes that she’s a target. Her attorney recommends private investigator Marcus Crisp – who happens to be the best in the business. As Marcus and his partner, Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne, try to protect Suzanne and clear her name, Suzanne continues to investigate some of the stories she’s working on — and the three of them end up uncovering a crime group that kills young runaways to save the lives of the rich.
Unfortunately, the story is not well-crafted. First of all, we the readers know too much. By showing us a conversation between Suzanne’s doctor-fiancé and his father, and by taking us into the father’s thoughts and business dealings, we realize much too soon who the killers are and what’s really going on.
Second, a lot of things just don’t make sense, like the author either didn’t think things through or didn’t want to take the time to explain. For example: in one scene, Suzanne is telling her mother that she can’t come home for her sister’s engagement party that weekend, and after hanging up, we have the impression that she just wants to relax at home. Some time later, she mentions that she couldn’t attend the party because she had to be in Chicago for a story she was working on. Huh? I went back and re-read the earlier scene to make sure I hadn’t just missed something.
Another thing that bothered me is that while Suzanne’s boss warns her a couple of times about making sure her stories are accurately reporting and that she’s pushing the envelope, she’s never sent home on leave. Even after she’s charged with murder, she’s talking about how she has to be on the air. Maybe the boss is so hungry for ratings he’s willing to keep an accused murderer on the air, but we need to see that decision made. Have him tell her that the network brass is willing to keep her on the air, but they’ll be watching closely. Something.
From 2000 until 2007, I worked as a broadcast news producer. A couple of weeks ago, after I finished reading this book, I returned to the field. The first thing Suzanne did in the book really set me off: she talked to a uniformed officer and gathered a little gossip, which she then twisted and reported as fact. I suppose some news outlets do that sort of thing, and granted, Suzanne Kidwell was presented as a do-anything-for-ratings character, but what she did really put her station and herself at risk of a lawsuit, and I don’t think that’s very realistic.
Judgment Day is published by Waterbrook Press, a publisher of Christian-themed fiction and non-fiction. It was several chapters in, as I recall, before anyone said anything religious. Marcus, Alex and their IT guy all mention at different points that religion is important to them. When Suzanne is facing imminent death, she begins to pray. More than anything, the religious stuff seems thrown in so that a Christian publisher would consider printing it. This is probably the first Christian fiction I’ve ever read, so maybe they’re all like this; I don’t know.
Bottom Line: Though the mystery plot is good, and Marcus and Alex are very likable characters, Judgment Day is not well-written enough for me to recommend it.
WaterbrookMultnomah provided me with a review copy of this book. I received no other compensation, and all opinions about the book are my own.