One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

Title: One Breath Away
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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What is About?

Holly is in hospital after suffering serious burns. Her children, PJ and Augie, have been sent to stay with her estranged father on her family’s farm in Broken Branch, a small town in Iowa, while she recovers. Lying in her hospital bed, she takes a call from her daughter, locked in a closet by a gunman intent on who knows what. Outside, Augie and PJ’s grandfather waits anxiously with the rest of the town for news.

No one knows who the gunman is, or why he is there. Mrs Oliver, the teacher in charge of the class held hostage, knows he has a plan – she just doesn’t know what it is or how to stop it. Maria, the town’s only female police officer (whose own daughter is, thankfully, visiting her father) tries to figure out who the gunman is by tracking down leads. As the snow falls, and hostage negotiators fail to make it through, it looks like it will be down to Maria and Mrs. Oliver to save the children.

What did I think?

I decided to read this book because, in all honesty, it was free on iBooks and a quick look on Goodreads said similar authors included Jodi Picoult, who I am a fan of.

This book is written in a style I like – short chapters which tell the story from the perspective of a number of characters using both the first and third person and dealing with a situation that, whilst not exactly ordinary, I could find myself in. It’s a style that tends to make me wonder what I would do – how I would react, what I would think, what I would say. It’s something Jodi Picoult, and Diane Chamberlain, do very well.

Because of this, and the fact it got good reviews, I was expecting to like it more than I did – perhaps I was expecting too much. Finishing it, I was left feeling flat. I think it comes down to the characters – I didn’t connect with any of them. And if I don’t find something to love or hate in the characters of any book, I can’t become fully absorbed in it. At times, I actually found the back stories more interesting than what was happening at the school – not a good sign.

On a positive note, however, the mystery surrounding who the gunman is was well done and kept me guessing. I was very close to the end when it “clicked” who it might be. And, the book itself is well written in an “easy” style with a good pace. Both these things kept me turning the pages. I’m just not sure I would recommend it to others.

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