Tough Customer by Sandra Brown is all about the consequences of bad decisions whether it is a lifetime of smoking, reckless ambition or the impulsive choice not to forgive.
First Introduced in Smash Cut, investigator Dodge Hanley is a tough guy with a soft center. In Tough Customer we learn that he had a past. Dodge is awakened one morning to learn that his daughter Berry, whom he has not seen since an infant thirty years previously, is in trouble and needs the kind of help only he can provide. Berry Malone is a successful marketer who has found herself the target of a crazed stalker. Local authorities in the shape of Ski Nyland appear to doubt Berry’s story when the stalker makes his initial attack. Berry’s mother Caroline fears for her daughter and calls on former lover Dodge to help. The situation becomes more desperate as the stalker grows more unraveled and innocent bodies begin to pile up.
Although on the surface this is a suspense thriller, this novel is all about Dodge Hanley. This appealing character can almost make you forget some of the more implausible plot twists. Dodge is the one character who is fully fleshed out. He’s a loner who must overcome a damaging past if he is to have a lasting relationship. Women find him irresistible. He knows this and uses it. He has carried a torch for Caroline for thirty years and once he is reunited with her and their daughter all his protective instincts come rushing back. Caroline’s character is vague and cool. It’s never clear, at least to me, why she had such a hold on his life.
Perhaps in the next Sandra Brown novel, we’ll see more of Berry Malone. She, like her father, is flawed. Her unethical decisions, while not deserving of murder, do take away from her lily white victim status.
I enjoyed the rhythm of this novel. As the plot heated up and the chase became frantic, we stopped and looked back at Dodge and Caroline’s romance leading up to the fateful event that was to split them up for thirty years.