Romance and suspense mingle in Elizabeth Baroody’s story, which illustrates the dark results a love affair can have. True to its title, Tangled Webs is indeed a novel of crisscrossing story lines: After Kelly Severinson has an affair with older Charles Mandeley while his wife is away, she is mistaken for the wife and kidnapped for ransom. The kidnappers have unexpected ties to Charles’ family, and the ensuing events link all the characters in complicated ways.
The story is set in a period before cell phones— one in which the Mandeley family has “help” and working is just a cute pastime for single women. The author expects readers to suspend some disbelief: while the kidnapping is carefully detailed, much of Charles’ actions make little sense (he never calls the police or makes any effort to get help; after he contracts the flu, he seems to simply give up on Kelly), and some of the coincidences are odd (it’s particularly difficult to believe, for example, what happens to Kelly’s ID).
While the suspense is satisfying and the twists are fun, it’s hard to like gold-digger Kelly, who begins the book juggling three different men in a calculated manner. In addition, some tangents are hard to follow. In a side story that readers must push through to get to the more interesting plot of what happens to Kelly, for instance, Charles’ wife visits her mother and rekindles an interest in a former flame. The conclusion leaves the reader puzzled and rather let down.
Even so, the novel offers an interesting mix of romance and suspense, and Baroody is skilled at bringing details to life. Readers will feel the Mandeley home has been laid out for them like a movie set. Written by a photojournalist who was born in 1925 and published posthumously, the book may appeal slightly more to older readers who will appreciate the setting and somewhat delicate handling of sexuality.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.