An Imposter in Town
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Pages: 110
Goes well with: chicken pot pie

Brian calls Peyton his “angel of mercy” in Denise MonCrief's An Imposter in Town. But Peyton never feels she deserves the name. For a start, she has a son she never sees—what’s angelic about that? Then there are the scars she tries to hide on her wrists. Peyton has a past, just not the past everybody imagines for her. But maybe Brian has a past as well. And just maybe the two of them could have a future.

Peyton, it soon seems, is the imposter in town, while Brian represents the law. But Peyton’s a genuine and valued member of the local community, a nurse who saves lives and protects and serves just as surely as any lawman. Sadly, protecting her secret, while serving her son’s caretaker, doesn’t leave much room in Peyton’s life for relationships, but Brian’s trying to change that. Still, Peyton retreats as strange phone calls threaten to expose her to the world. Then a dark and scary adventure separates nurse and sheriff, bringing this romantic mystery novella to life. The story’s nicely structured in the form of well-drawn set pieces or windows on Peyton's confusing life. New mysteries shed light on old, and new characters bring new contrasts to an ever-widening web. The overall effect is like a four-course meal eaten at a fast-food joint, with material for a full-length novel exploding through rapid-fire snippets in a hundred page novella. Drinking a strong coffee while you read will keep the brain awake, connecting clues and images, and keeping track of the web of characters. But the short scenes of this novella make it an easy book to pick up and put down again too, so readers who drink their coffee quickly could spread the mystery successfully over several lunch breaks.

All those twists and turns come together at the end, clues falling into place and loose threads retying into essential parts of the fabric, with every detail turning out to make important sense. An initially fractured, meandering tale becomes a tightly woven, well-planned romantic suspense, with low-key sexual tension and high-stakes action; an intense adventure filled with mystery, surprises, hurt, heart and hope.

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