(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Critics say that more than any other factor, it is Sandra Brown’s strong storytelling ability and her ability to combine romance, terror, and suspense that set her apart from other writers. In addition, Brown appeals to both male and female readers, who find themselves constantly changing their minds about the identities of her villains. She manages to keep readers in suspense with her greatly detailed, richly plotted novels. Critics also praise Brown for her ability to weave false leads and highly unpredictable, sinister motives into her intricate plotlines. Although all of Brown’s thrillers have been called “vulgar” and “bloodthirsty” by reviewers, who note the “raunchy” sex scenes, Brown’s books continue to sell well.

Highly regarded for her novels of romantic suspense, Brown thinks of her books primarily as suspense crime novels that incorporate a spicy love story. Her plots generally follow a predictable outline, with each featuring a fiercely independent female protagonist who encounters an extremely violent situation, usually involving murder, and finds herself in dire need of masculine help. However, differentiating the good guys from the bad guys is never easy in the Brown novel. Brown’s plots invariably play out against a backdrop of complex family secrets that are revealed one by one and discovered when least expected.

Brown invariably makes her protagonist a high-powered, successful, career-minded woman, who although highly self-sufficient, finds herself in danger and in need of help. For example, the protagonist of Brown’s Charade (1994), is a soap-opera star in danger of dying unless she receives a heart transplant. Many of Brown’s novels are set in the Deep South, and this setting, complete with swamps, plantations, and creepy Spanish oaks, lends itself well to the menacing atmosphere that surrounds her characters. Brown’s Mirror Image, Breath of Scandal (1991), and French Silk are all set in the hot and sultry city of New Orleans, an atmosphere that has appeal for readers desiring to escape their own prosaic lives and enter into a dangerous fantasy world of sex and high intrigue. In addition, Brown’s suspense novels incorporate a large number of highly complex characters, who are one by one drawn against their wishes into a dark unfolding plot. The characters, and Brown’s readers, remain completely unaware of the hidden family secrets that act as the underpinnings of Brown’s plots, and it is the revelation of these secrets that draws the characters into the never-ceasing action. In addition, Brown differs from other writers in that she breaks away from predictable, formulaic happy endings and oftentimes opts for dark endings.


In Charade, if soap-opera star Cat Delany does not receive a heart transplant, she will die. After the operation, Cat, who is simply happy to be alive, is stalked by a killer who seeks revenge on her because she is the recipient of his former lover’s heart. Suddenly, Cat’s world closes in on her,...

(The entire section is 1256 words.)