Madeline and Daphne were once as close as sisters—until a secret tore them apart. Now it might take them to their graves.
They knew his name, the man who tried to brutally attack twelve-year-old Madeline in her grandmother’s hotel. They thought they knew his fate. He wouldn’t be bothering them anymore…ever. Still their lives would never be the same.
Madeline has returned to Washington after her grandmother’s mysterious death. And at the old, abandoned hotel—a place she never wanted to see again—a dying man’s last words convey a warning: the secrets she and Daphne believed buried forever have been discovered.
Now, after almost two decades, Madeline and Daphne will be reunited in friendship and in fear. Unable to trust the local police, Madeline summons Jack Rayner, the hotel chain’s new security expert. Despite the secrets and mysteries that surround him, Jack is the only one she trusts…and wants.
Jack is no good at relationships but he does possess a specific skill set that includes a profoundly intimate understanding of warped and dangerous minds. With the assistance of Jack’s brother, Abe, a high-tech magician, the four of them will form an uneasy alliance against a killer who will stop at nothing to hide the truth….
I almost always read Jayne Ann Krentz (and her pen names) immediately, and this one was no different, despite the author’s foreboding words about how different it is from her usual stories. She described it as darker, grittier, and edgier. I don’t mind any of that, but I was wondering how much of my Krentz fondness was due to nostalgia and comfort, and how much was her ability to weave a story. I mean, we like what we like, and it is often remarkably tough to parse out WHY we like or dislike things.
So the beginning was dark, as promised. And then we move into meeting our grown up heroine and her hero. Madeline is aggressive and icy and emotionally closed off. But Jack, Krentz paints him as sexy right from the beginning, or at least in my opinion she does, because men who are competent in the kitchen are my catnip. It made him seem softer and was a nice foil to his otherwise rough tough image and was a nice characterization thread throughout.
Anyway, we get into the mystery pretty quick. And, it is hard to explain, but the dialogue is a little stilted. It is like Krentz was trying to wade into unfamiliar waters and she feels unbalanced and couldn’t quite get a feel of what her characters would say, or how they should say it. There is also some kind of Nora Roberts vibe, I don’t know, but the set up with dual couples and the suspense just had something of a Roberts feel.
In any event, once the mystery really got up and running I didn’t mind the slightly awkward dialogue anymore I was just sucked into this over the top dramatic suspense. Except I also kind of wasn’t. I was into it, don’t get me wrong, but if something distracted me from it, it often kept me distracted and I didn’t find myself racing back to the story. It is hella twisty turvy though, and the twists actually make sense and are logical, though our PI hero spends a tad too much time explaining it all.
So here’s the deal, I think I am getting a handle on why I enjoy steampunk, science fiction, paranormal, fantasy and urban fantasy so much more than contemporary. Because people are people and there are really only so many ways to write them, and there are really only so many mysteries, so many motivations, and so many ways to put people in jeopardy. And when you are working within the framework of contemporary you tend to be constrained I think. Other genres I think allow for more creativity. The things you can explore are practically limitless, so you get novel settings, unusual rules to the world, and every now and then it seems like it opens up a different choice or makes the people set in those fantastical settings just a bit different.
I don’t know, I guess I am jaded on contemporary romantic suspense. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed this one and will gladly continue reading Krentz, darker or not. She still weaves a hell of a tale, and that hasn’t really changed. But frankly I wouldn’t consider this darker, edgier, or grittier in the least. It is comparative to Silver Linings, Soft Focus, or A Coral Kiss (albeit with some feminist flair that’s glaringly obvious in these older books), all books I have enjoyed. I’d say the story is more detailed, tricky and maybe tightly plotted, but this isn’t groundbreaking to me, it is more like returning to the late 80’s through the 90’s in my opinion. So if like me you enjoyed this previous books, you’ll probably like this one too. I’m giving this 3.5 stars because while I enjoyed it, I guess t didn’t live up to expectations, and I am not sure I’d reread this one, I’d probably reread one of those other three, and I think this may actually prompt a reread.