Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tracing the Untraceable

By Laura Griffin
Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Alexandra Lovell is a private investigator with top notch computer skills, which she periodically employs to help clients who are victims of domestic violence drop out of sight and start new lives elsewhere. She also does regular PI work, like investigating insurance fraud and the like, but she has a real soft spot for the abuse victims who come through her office door. Thus she ends up helping Melanie Bess, who shows up with a sad story about being abused by her police officer husband. Melanie has been roughed up and is certainly terrified, so Alex helps her “disappear.” A few months later, an attorney comes looking for Melanie, explaining that she has inherited some money. Alex denies all knowledge, but tries to reach Melanie only to find that she has disappeared for real. No answer on her secret emergency cell phone, and she has left her apartment and her job in the city she moved to. Alex fears that Melanie’s ex caught up with her, and so she turns to a police officer friend of her own – Nathan Devereaux – to help her out. Nathan and Alex have always had a little thing for each other but it has never gone anywhere, so both like the idea of joining forces. As the two of them start digging, they find that there is a lot more going on than either suspected, and the stakes – and danger quotient – just keep getting higher.

As a suspense novel, this is really enjoyable. The pace is fast, the threats are believable, and there’s enough intrigue to keep you guessing until pretty close to the end. I only had a few issues with the book, but one of them was pretty big: I really don’t like Alex. I have no problem with the fact that she bends the rules, ignores a few laws, sneaks and schemes and is generally devious as she outsmarts the bad guys. Those are the traits I like about her. What I don’t like is her attitude. She likes to play it tough and independent, but comes off as bratty and occasionally stupid. She’s a smart person who does stupid things, like not thoroughly checking the stories of the people who walk into her office. She doesn’t want to trust or let others get too close, because – get this – she had a really boring, stable childhood, and doesn’t want to have a boring life like her parents. No, really. In spite of all this stability, she makes it her personal mission to help victims of domestic violence, to the point of letting them get away with not paying her. Why? I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation, unless it’s a Cause of the Month type of thing. And then there’s Melanie – the current victim. Here’s a woman who does so much to sabotage herself that she falls squarely into the Too Stupid To Live category. Frankly, I had decided early on that she deserved whatever miserable fate was in store for her, if only to remove such brainless DNA from the gene pool. But wait!!! *spoiler follows* It’s too late for that because there’s a SECRET BABY!!!!
Spare me.

So, there’s a lot to like about this book, but a few things really didn’t work for me. Given how strong the suspense plot elements are though, and how intelligently it’s put together, I am still glad I read it and would not only recommend it, but would read more by this author. This is the beginning of a new series from Griffin, so I will look for the next Tracer book and give it a try.

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