on Jan. 10, 2012
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Also in this series: Dream Eyes
A rare book. An ancient code. An all-new novel from the New York Times-bestselling master of passion and the paranormal.
Within the pages of very rare books some centuries old lie the secrets of the paranormal. Abby Radwell's unusual psychic talent has made her an expert in such volumes-and sometimes taken her into dangerous territory. After a deadly incident in the private library of an obsessive collector, Abby receives a blackmail threat, and rumors swirl that an old alchemical text known as The Key has reappeared on the black market.
Convinced that she needs an investigator who can also play bodyguard, she hires Sam Coppersmith, a specialist in paranormal crystals and amber-"hot rocks." Passion flares immediately between them, but neither entirely trusts the other. When it comes to dealing with a killer who has paranormal abilities, and a blackmailer who will stop at nothing to obtain an ancient alchemical code, no one is safe.
Copper Beach, the latest novel by Jayne Ann Krentz, shares a number of themes with her recent Arcane Society series, including paranormal (psychic) abilities, crystals, and a hero and heroine in peril as they race to solve a mystery. However, it lacks the suspense, sizzle, and snappy humor of many of Krentz’s books; in fact, Copper Beach reads as though it were cobbled-together out of scraps left over from other novels.
To begin with, the various subplot elements don’t fit together well. Summerlight Academy, the private school for disturbed youth which Abby and several of her friends attended, could have played a more prominent role, but instead is pulled in rather haphazardly at the end. One subsidiary character shows up (burgling Abby’s apartment, although he is supposedly a trusted friend), shares his information when caught, and more or less disappears from then on. Krentz does tie both Abby’s dysfunctional family and Sam’s murdered former lover into the main mystery, but without her usual flair and polish in weaving plot elements together.
My biggest quibble with Copper Beach is that despite the near-cloning of the paranormal “rules” used in the Arcane novels, Arcane is mentioned nowhere in the book. The Arcane Society, with its centuries-long tradition of exploring (not to mention breeding for) the paranormal, gives a history and structure to the paranormal within that series. The reader understands that psychic phenomena obey certain rules (usually), and that those rules are known and understood by the characters because of the Society’s existence and raison d’etre. In contrast, Copper Beach‘s main characters, while they do have at least some (shared) understanding of their paranormal abilities and the rules under which they operate, appear to have learned these out of the blue. I found myself frequently wondering how Abby, with no real support system as a youngster, ever learned to do what she does, and why both she and Sam are completely aware of how heavy psi-use affects biochemistry — surely something that would only be known through scientific study, yet there’s no mention of any organization capable of carrying out such studies, nor of how the information could be made discreetly available to those with psychic abilities. This lack of backstory leaves the paranormal elements feeling arbitrary and without foundation.
It’s clear from both the subtitle (A Dark Legacy Novel) and the fact that not everything is resolved that there will be at least one and probably two sequels. I usually find Krentz entertaining, and will probably read the rest of the series, but I do hope the sequels will live up to her usual standards. Sadly, Copper Beach did not.
ETA (8/03/17): I read this book again in 2017, and liked it better. Perhaps having read the second book (and only sequel) helped, because at least some of my issues with this book are resolved in that one: there’s more about Summerlight Academy; the burgling friend plays a bigger role; and best of all, there’s a tie-in to the Arcane novels, though it doesn’t show up until the very end. Krentz has since tied the Coppersmith family into her Harmony series (written as Jayne Castle) as well, which helps me feel the books are a little more rooted in her Arcane/Harmony universe. So I’ve bumped my rating from 2 stars to 3.