For some novelists, the easiest way to write a novel is to fit the writing into a tested formula. Usually this means writing a novel that sticks to a classifiable genre, like a thriller or a romance novel. In fact, there are some genres, such as the infamous Harlequin romance novel, that actually publish these writing formulas, allowing the average person to become an award-winning novelist.
This isn't always a bad way to approach writing a novel. Even though it sounds like an easy way out, most writers do it in some way; for example, how many great writers of the 20th century borrowed heavily from Greek mythology or the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy? In the modern world, borrowing from the past to create something new is a way for the novelist to catch the reader's attention while revealing a truth about human experience.
In St. Barts Breakdown, author Don Bruns uses the mystery-thriller formula to create a story of murder and intrigue. Danny Murtz, a self-absorbed and overly stimulated music producer, has a shady past that involves sex, drugs, and murder. As music journalist Mick Sever visits the island to interview the legendary producer, Sever uncovers all of the skeletons in Murtz's closet. As Sever investigates these alleged crimes, Murtz and his lawyer friend Harvey Schwartz attempt to divert Sever's attempts at investigative journalism. Sever's life is in danger, but he finds out that Murtz is under investigation for murder after several women have gone missing. At the same time, Sever unravels a long term cover-up taking place by authorities on the island, and in their haste to protect their international image, all of these unfortunate events become "mistakes" instead of something more sinister.
It's a great premise for a thriller, and Bruns has an obvious control over the thriller novel. Unfortunately, the novel often falls into the predictability trap, and a lot of the twists and turns at the end of the novel are clichéd and expected. For example, it's obvious from the beginning that Murtz is a murderer, and I don't think I'm revealing too much plot to say that Sever figures it out by the end. Despite being a target throughout the novel, Sever's investigative skills don't seem all that good because he keeps falling for Murtz's traps. Of course, Sever avoids the attempts at his life, and at the end of the novel, he becomes the hero.