Open Season: Tension on a Highwire

Maryann Miller has taken a bold new step into the eBook revolution.

She has long been an enormous talent. She writes screenplays. She is a well-known director of Community Theater in her hometown of Winnsboro. And she is a published novelist.

Maryann Miller

Sometimes the novels didn’t start out that way. Open Season, for example, began its life as an award-winning screenplay. And, over time, the story wormed its way between the pages of an acclaimed police procedural book.

It was hard cover.

Maryann Miller was old school.

Hers had always been a world of libraries and bookstores where she could feel the pages and smell the aroma of ink on paper. It was, she thought, the most rewarding sensation of all.

But, whether any of us like it, the publishing world is in the midst of chaos, confusion, and change. The digital world is upon us. The future of reading is the future of eBooks.

And after a successful run as a hardback novel, Open Season has gone digital. Caleb and Linda Pirtle has released the novel as an eBook, and it’s now on both and Kindle. Nook. IPad. It’s waiting to be read. Open Season did not lose a moment of suspense, drama, and conflict in the translation. Maryann simply worries because the Kindle doesn’t smell like paper and ink.

The story remains a timely one, even though the novel was written several years ago. Set against a backdrop of racial tension and deadly force controversy in Dallas, Open Season introduces Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson, homicide detectives who are unlikely and unwilling partners. When people start dying in area shopping malls, the detectives find themselves up against a killer who has his own race card to play. The Dallas Review Board wants Sarah’s badge because she shot a young black boy when the undercover drug operation went bad and her partner was killed. The detectives also wrestle with personal attitudes and feelings about racism and their partnership. They both see the pairing as better PR than policy and Angel’s position is further complicated by her family’s reaction to her working with a white woman.

Their first case, dubbed the Mall Murders, begins with the death of a maintenance worker at one of the Dallas Metroplex shopping malls. A security guard is then killed at another mall. The final murder victim is a young window dresser whose body is left like a mannequin behind the glass of an exclusive boutique at the Galleria Mall. When Angel realizes that the killer is the father of one of her close friends, she turns to Sarah as a to help bring him in. In a standoff at the killer’s house, Angel and Sarah become a team as they attempt to talk Alfred out. The SWAT team has their best snipers in position. The media is there with cameras rolling, hoping for a spectacular ending. But Angel and Sarah have decided that nobody should die in this one.

This is the first book in a series and the second, Stalking Season, will come out November 2012. Each book will have ‘season’ in the title as a series identifier.

When I first read Open Season, I wrote: Maryann Miller’s Open Season opens with a strangle hold that never lets up. It begins when tension as at an all-time high, then, as the plot thickens, Maryann ratchets up the tension even higher. I was forced to turn away from the page every now and then just so I could take a breath. Open Season hits your emotions like a rifle shot. A detective is shot to death during an undercover drug operation.

His partner guns down the culprit. His partner is a woman. She’s white. The culprit is a young man, not much more than a boy. He’s black. Homicide Detective Sarah Kingsley says she followed procedures and went by the book. It doesn’t matter Racial tension in Dallas reaches the boiling point and threatens to explode.

Her whole career hangs in balance as the Dallas Review Board begins to investigate her actions and motivations in the incident. In a desperate public relations gamble, the Dallas Police Department places Kingsley with a new partner, a black detective named Angel Johnson. Both women are suspicious of each other. There is no trust between them. Bitterness simmers between them.

And, yet, they must work together to solve a series of mysterious murders taking place in shopping malls throughout Dallas. They find it difficult to work as as team when there is neither friendship nor teamwork between them. Maryann Miller has created a tension-filled backdrop for the first in a series of police procedural novels featuring Homicide Detective Sarah Kingsley. The scenes are authentic Dallas. I know the city well. I worked there for more than two decades. I know the mean streets and the silk stocking district. Maryann captures both sides of the track.

The dialogue is authentic Texan. The characters are authentic as each detective has her share of flaws. The investigation is authentic because Maryann Miller took the time to ride with officers and learn first hand the way police work on the dark side of a big city.

There was only one thing that made me glad when I finished reading Open Season. I knew that volume two in Maryann’s “Season Series” is not that far away. I will be at the head of the line when it is released.


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