Published by Putnam on 2014-04-15
Genres: Mystery, Romantic suspense
Source: the library
Also by this author: Dark Witch, Shadow Spell, Blood Magick, Night Moves, Whiskey Beach, Jewels of the Sun
From #1 New York Times-bestselling author Nora Roberts comes a novel of a woman who needs nothing, a man who sees everything, and the web of deceit, greed, and danger that brings them together—and could tear them apart . . .
When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one. . . .
Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her. But their investigation draws them into a rarified circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away, and stolen, where what you possess is who you are, and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession. . . .
In The Collector, Roberts delivers her trademark romantic suspense in a book that is thrilling, compelling, and occasionally chilling. I’ve only been reading Roberts for a few years, so I haven’t read a lot of her romantic suspense yet, but this one drew me in from the first page. A well-thought-out plot; an intriguing premise; complex, relatable characters; vividly-drawn settings and perfect pacing combine to create a book I just couldn’t put down.
Let’s start with the plot. Without going into details or giving anything away, the plot centers around one of the famous mysteries of the antiques-and-art world. . . and as all readers of mystery/thrillers/romantic suspense know, a determined collector will stop at nothing to acquire whatever their heart is set on. Our heroine and hero find themselves caught up in this dangerous world: Lila because she witnesses a murder, Ashton – “Ash” – because he can’t believe his brother capable of committing it. Ash’s desire for justice and Lila’s compassion lead them to investigate further, and soon they are playing a dangerous game of deception and bluff.
Much of the action takes place in the somewhat rarefied (and related) worlds of art and wealthy society, both personified in Ashton Archer. A talented artist who is also a scion of a very wealthy New York family, Ash is much more comfortable moving in those circles than Lila, a professional house-sitter and the author of a bestselling YA paranormal series. Lila is deeply interested in other people, but guards her own privacy; she’s compassionate, but protects her heart by not relying on anyone else. Ash is drawn to her from the first, both because of her caring concern and because he wants to paint her. He is used to taking care of people, often by taking charge, something that rankles the fiercely independent Lila. I have to admit that Ash’s autocratic tendencies made me bristle, too, but because Roberts gives us some sense of the person inside, of Ash’s loyalty and dedication to family, I was willing to give him a somewhat grudging pass on that. I did enjoy the glimpses into each character’s artistic side – Lila’s writing process, Ash’s painting. I also loved Lila’s practical side – she carries a multitool and duct tape in her purse, for heaven’s sake, just in case she needs to fix something. And watching her draw people out through her genuine interest in them and in what they do – that gave me an insight into how a writer can learn and know so much about human nature. Both Ashton and Lila are compelling characters, and it’s that as much as the mystery-thriller plotline that kept me reading.
The supporting characters vary in type and depth, but they’re all individual – possibly with the exception of the two police detectives, whom I liked but didn’t get as clear a sense of. Most vivid are Ash’s best friend Luke, Lila’s best friend Julie, and a few of Ash’s relatives. There’s also a delightful dog, who provides some of the lighter moments but proves to be quite helpful.
Along with all the danger and the suspense, there’s humor scattered throughout the book, both subtle and overt. (I loved the scene where Lila and Julie explain the origins of their friendship!) Still, the humor never detracts from the building suspense, only lightens it briefly, makes it more bearable. Despite its length, the book moves swiftly toward the climax and a final, inevitable resolution. I’m glad I didn’t read it at night – I don’t think I could have stopped to turn out the light! I’m also glad I read it during the day because a few of the scenes are violent, not gratuitously but chillingly.
One additional quibble in addition to my reservations about Ashton’s dictatorial nature: The police, while refreshingly sympathetic, are also a bit too willing to agree with Ashton’s proposals. (Not that he’s asking their permission, of course.) It doesn’t feel realistic; I would have expected more significant resistance on their part. But it made the plot work, so again, I’ll give Roberts a pass, though a qualified one.
Despite those flaws, I enjoyed The Collector as much as any of Nora Roberts’ suspense thrillers I’ve read so far – which admittedly isn’t many. I recommend it if you enjoy romantic suspense or mysteries set in the art or antiques worlds.