|Elizabeth Lowell’s romantic suspense novels are characterized by the unusual texture she adds to her stories. She achieves this by gently teaching the reader not only about the setting but also about a unique subject. In the case of Always Time to Die, the reader will be educated not only about the history of New Mexico but also about DNA testing.
New Mexico was a true frontier for 300 years prior to statehood and in some places is still that today. It is an area where Hispanics and Anglos have lived and forged their alliances or fueled their hatreds throughout that time and even now. One cannot read Always Time to Die without acquiring some understanding of this, albeit through the eyes of genealogist Carly May.
Carly May arrives at the Quintrell ranch in time for the funeral of Senator A.J. Quintrell. His sister-in law, Winifred Castillo, has retained Carly to write a family history. Opposed to this venture is Governor Josh Quintrell, the son of the Senator, who has aspirations for the presidency. Although Josh has lived a life above reproach since his marriage to Anne, his father had been a satiric reprobate and his son Andy is apparently trying to equal it. His late drug addicted sister Liza had been disinherited and murdered. Josh wants none of this public and is quick to try and quash the project.
Carly meets Dan Duran when she visits the newspaper to search the archives. Dan, a former CIA operative with ties to the Quintrells, is home because of an injury and is visiting his foster brother, the editor. Dan was injured in Colombia while tangling with a drug cartel and suspects that the Taos drug trades principals were responsible.
As her research progresses, Carly starts receiving threats and messages to leave before she dies. In addition to being attracted to her, Dan realizes Carly needs his help to stay alive. This stirs him out of his lethargy and as he becomes more involved the danger escalates.
Lowell sustains the mounting suspense and the mounting attraction between Carly and Dan with extraordinary skill. She varies the pacing, often by what seems to be a harmless digression, only to see it become pivotal later. The resolution of this story will be achieved by an understanding of the past and the retracement of that is through a labyrinth of hidden secrets. DNA testing becomes critical.
Lowell’s character development subtly bestows a complexity upon each character that must be difficult to do as so few writers achieve it. The dialogue is crisp, funny and always in voice, which heightens the contrast in the Anglo-Hispanic community of characters.
Always Time to Die may be a summer release but Elizabeth Lowell fans will be rereading it in all seasons.