Ghost Moon



The Midnight Hour

Paradise County



The Senator's Wife

To Trust a Stranger


by Karen Robards
(Putnam, $25.95, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-399-15627-4
I began reading Karen Robards latest book, oh, about three weeks ago.  I found the prologue describing events thirty years earlier riveting but somehow the contemporary characters and circumstances didn’t grab me.  So I put the book down and went on to something else.  But yesterday, duty and guilt called.  I had promised Dede a review.  I sat down to plod my way through.  Instead, I got completely engaged with the novel and spent every spare moment reading it.  Makes me wonder if I just wasn’t in the mood the first time around because Shattered is an exciting and enjoyable romantic suspense novel.

The prologue is presented through the eyes of five year old Marisa Garcia who can sense that all is not well in her family.  The Garcias have recently moved to Lexington, Kentucky and Marisa is not happy.  She misses her friends in Maryland, her parents are not getting along, and she is sure that someone is watching their isolated house from the looming, scary woods.  Then, one evening as her mother is getting her ready for bed and her brother is doing his homework, there is shouting and a loud noise in the kitchen.  Her mother runs to see what has happened and there is another loud noise.  Marisa rushes to the kitchen and sees that her mother and father have been shot.  Her dying mother tells her to flee and Marisa grabs her favorite doll and flees into the woods.

Fast forward thirty years.  The scene is the Lexington DA’s office and Lisa Grant is in trouble.  Her car broke down and she is late for a court appearance.  The assistant DA has to ask for a postponement.  (Actually, she doesn’t; she just wants to make trouble for Lisa.)  Lisa’s boss is furious and exiles her to the Siberia – the basement – to organize the cold case files.

Lisa had left her position as a lawyer in Boston and returned home to Kentucky to care for her mother who is suffering from ALS.  The family’s once prosperous horse farm, Grayson Springs, has fallen on hard times.  The family fortune which had allowed Lisa to shine in local society is mostly gone.  Lisa needs to earn an income so that her beloved mother can stay in her home for the time she has left, but, given the economy, none of the local law firms are hiring.    So Lisa had swallowed her pride and asked the local district attorney, Scott Buchanan, for a job. Scott offered her the position of research assistant and Lisa had no choice but to take it.

 Lisa and Scott have a long history.  If Lisa was the daughter of the local aristocracy, Scott was the son of the local drunk.  The two were neighbors and Scott had worked at Grayson Springs as a youth.  Lisa’s mother had always had a soft spot for the boy who was trying so hard to rise above his origins.  The young Lisa had had an eye for the handsome, older Scott, but he had pretty much ignored her somewhat clumsy attempts to get his attention. However, he had not been unaware of Lisa’s charms.

Martha Grant had been right about Scott’s prospects.  Now Lisa is working for him and he isn’t going to give her any slack.  Hence her exile to the cold case department, an assignment that will change her life and put her in grave danger.  As she is going through the files, Lisa is shown a picture of a family that disappeared thirty years earlier.  What catches her attention is that the woman, Angela Garcia, looks just like her.  And the daughter bears a striking resemblance as well.   Lisa is understandably intrigued by the fate of the Garcia family and when she begins to look into the case, nasty things start happening.  Before the mystery is solved, Lisa’s world will be rocked to its foundation.

Both the romance and the suspense in Shattered are most enjoyable.  Lisa suspects early on that her interest in the Garcia case has set events into motion.  When there is a fire at Grayson Springs that turns out to be arson, she wonders if it is connected to the presence of the Garcia file in her home.  She shares her concern with Scott who does not dismiss her fears and takes steps to protect her.  The case brings the two closer together and sets of the sparks that have been latent for years. If the romance between the “lady of the manor” and her one-time “social inferior” is familiar, Robards’ version is nicely done.

I have to admit that the denouement of the mystery was startling and perhaps a wee bit unconvincing.  But I suppose there is little that should surprise us about the capacity of human beings for selfishness and self-deception and self-protection.

Shattered is a fast-paced, entertaining romantic suspense novel.  I am glad that duty called and I finished the book. 

--Jean Mason

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