Bantam, €9.47

American author Nicholas Sparks is a best-seller; his previous books include 'Message In A Bottle', 'The Notebook' and 'A Walk To Remember', all of which have been turned into major Hollywood films. Sparks' latest blockbuster follows the lives of recent widow Miles Ryan and his young son Jonah. Miles' wife Missy died in a hit and run accident. Unable to let go of her memory, Miles investigates the crime thoroughly both as a grieving husband and as the county sheriff. His research eats into his life, his son suffers and as his file gets thicker the mystery remains unsolved.

Sarah Andrews, Jonah's teacher, is also nursing a broken heart: she has been recently divorced by her rich husband because she cannot have children. Deciding to change her life, she has followed her parents to the town of New Bern, North Carolina where she tries to begin again.

Sarah begins to tutor Jonah after school, and as she gets to know him she also gets close to Miles. They fall in love and start to plan a future together, but the past comes back to haunt them and a third party begins to force them apart.

This third mysterious character, the sometime narrator of the story, is the person who killed Miles' wife. At page three hundred or so he reveals his identity and confesses to the reader and the characters simultaneously, this has enormous consequences for all concerned. Events take on a life of their own as Miles seeks revenge, and a book that up to now has read like an average chick-lit romance takes on a much more exciting and dramatic tone.

Sparks shines as a storyteller when he focuses on the bigger picture, the plot is good and the marginal characters are interesting and believable. He also creates tension and heightens drama well, but overall this is a light summer read, forgettable and somewhat disappointing. I had expected more from such a successful storyteller.

Deirdre Leahy