Title: Black Oil, Red Blood
Author: Diane Castle
Genre: Legal Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Jen Blood. To read more reviews by Jen, as well as author interviews and articles on the writing craft, visit http://bloodwrites.com/.
Chloe Taylor– a successful litigator with a track record of wins against oil refineries– has just moved to the small town of Kettle, Texas, following a messy divorce. Her track record takes a nosedive with the move, and Chloe soon realizes she’s been working with a stacked deck: the biggest employer in the town is PetroPlex, an oil industry giant that clearly has most of Kettle’s higher-ups in its back pocket. When her key witness is found dead forty-eight hours before her case goes to trial, there’s no question that Chloe has her work cut out for her if she hopes to pull her flagging career out of the toilet– and make PetroPlex pay for its many sins.
In the real world, author Diane Castle has actually worked as a litigator against big oil, and she weaves that experience effortlessly into the fabric of the novel, lending an air of legitimacy to the struggles of fictional heroine Chloe Taylor. In theory, Castle’s story contains precisely the kind of formula that has worked well for authors like Grisham and David Baldacci, but if you’re looking for an intense legal thriller, surprisingly enough, this novel isn’t it. Instead, Black Oil, Red Blood is kind of a legal thriller/romance/humor/chick lit hybrid that is much more likely to appeal to fans of romantic suspense or writers like Janet Evanovich than diehard Grisham followers.
This combination works well up to a point, but I will admit that there were points toward the end of the novel that were a bit too over the top for this reviewer– which is the only reason I’ve given four rather than five stars. With a plot so riveting and characters so rich, it felt at times like Castle was trying too hard to maintain a frantic pace in order to keep readers interested. She needn’t have worried: Castle is a great writer with a wonderful sense of humor and a keen mind, and Black Oil, Red Blood kept me fully engaged from start to finish. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense with humor and a plot (and you don’t mind big oil taking a hit), this is a wonderful find. Ring wing fans of mainstream legal thrillers, however, may want to keep shopping.