- Available: September 25th, 2013
- Published by: MarthaBooks Press
- Formats: Paperback, eBook
Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.
Fate Chooses, like St. James Place and A Customs Affair, is a suspense/thriller. The story opens in 2012 with protagonist, Nora Gallagher Stanis, standing in front of the 9/11 memorial fingering the bronze names of three of her friends who died in the South Tower that day. She and many others escaped from the building because her father, a firefighter with the FDNY, called her as soon as the North Tower was hit, and told her to leave. Despite being told to remain at their desks, Nora and others took her father’s advice and survived. It had taken Nora one year after the memorial opened for her to bring herself to go there, but when she does, she realizes she has to face things that had happened since the terrorist attack: her father’s illness from lung disease after working the pile at Ground Zero after the attacks, his deathbed confession of an infidelity which resulted in the birth of a daughter named Suzanne who was the same age as Nora, his awful request to her to find Suzanne, her mother’s death, and finally, the breakup of her marriage of four years. And that breakup was in part because Nora had ignored her father’s wishes, kept the secret from her mother and her sisters, and her own husband, and the keeping of that secret had made her sick. Now it is time to face the secret and to honor her father’s wishes: she would find her sister, Suzanne. In a journey that would take her to a small town near Sorrento, Italy, and back to New York City, Nora finds many more horrific secrets as she searches for her sister, but she also finds love and healing as she finally honors her father’s urgent final request.
When Nora Gallagher Stanis learns from her father’s deathbed confession that she has a half-sister the same age as her, the product of a brief affair many years earlier, her life is set onto a path that is fraught with emotional whirlpools and life-threatening dangers. Caught between an untenable rock and a hard place, Nora places a weighty burden of sadness and unreasonable responsibility on herself by ignoring her father’s deathbed wish and deciding to preserve the secret of her father’s infidelity from her family. When, after many years and much soul searching, Nora eventually reaches the difficult decision to disclose the past to her full sisters and to search for her long-lost half-sister, she discovers that she is not, in fact, lost at all. She has been in deep hiding from a monstrous evil that seems intent on tracking her to the very ends of the earth.
In FATE CHOOSES, third-time author Patricia Riley Leyden demonstrates her complete understanding of the writer’s dictum, “Show, don’t tell”. Her portrayal of Nora’s conflicted personality and distraught emotional state is masterful and, more than that, it’s done with an elegant, pastoral, spare style of prose that doesn’t use a single word more than necessary. But, make no mistake, nor does it ever fall short of whatever is necessary to provide an eloquent description of the situation at hand. The relationship with her ex-husband, whom she divorced during the emotional turmoil of covering up her father’s secret, is particularly warm and compelling. Then, as the plot moves from family drama to the horrific hunt for a sister in deep cover from a sadistic psychopath, Ms Leyden changes gears, ratchets up the narrative speed and the suspense, converting a heart-warming family drama to an edge-of-the-seat, page-turning, obsessive psychological thriller.
My only criticism (and it’s a mild one, indeed, in that it pertains to two to three paragraphs out of the entire novel) is that there was no necessity to draw in a reference to paranormal skills in the ultimate resolution of the plot line. For my money (and this is just the opinion of one reader), the reference to psychic abilities was far less believable than what would have been the required alternative to resolve the plot line – a very strong long-term memory of events, places and movement imprinted on a brain during a moment of extreme stress. Nothing unbelievable about that! One half-star deduction by a hard-nosed critical reviewer for resorting to a “deus ex machina” plot device that I thought unnecessary.
ST JAMES PLACE was very good. Riley Leyden’s second novel, A CUSTOMS AFFAIR, was better and FATE CHOOSES is her best effort to date. As an author, Riley Leyden is building on her strengths and has clearly matured. I’m definitely looking forward to her fourth novel, SUN SHOWERS, which is due for publication sometime next year. The summary is simple … highly recommended!