I was not impressed with Nora's last romantic suspense, Chasing Fire
. There was too much smoke jumping and not enough romance. I am so very glad to say that Nora is back on top with The Witness. There was the perfect blend of romance and suspense to keep me enthralled and unable to put this book down.
Do you watch Bones or The Big Bang Theory? You know Dr. Brennan and Sheldon Cooper's characters? Well Elizabeth is similar to those characters. Her mother is a doctor and she was like her experiment. Her father was a sperm donor and her mother controlled every aspect of her life to raise the perfect specimen. She's 16 and going to Harvard pre-med. She eats a controlled diet, her clothes are picked out for her. Elizabeth lives inside a little box and there is no way to get out of it. But one afternoon after her mother changes Elizabeth's summer plans, she rebels. She goes to the mall! She buys non-sanctioned clothes. And she runs into a fellow student, a girl who embraces Elizabeth's new found freedom and runs with it. The girls eventually decide to check out a hot club even though they're not legal. And what happens after that changes Elizabeth's life.
Now 12 years later, Elizabeth is Abigail Lowery, a computer security expert who can work from anywhere. Anywhere is her well-fortified cabin in Bickford, Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains. She keeps to herself, only going to town to get supplies. And in a small town, there's nothing that catches the locals' interest more than a mystery. And Abigail is very mysterious. And chief of police Brooks Gleason likes to solve puzzles and he sees Abigail as one big puzzle. Using his blend of charm and nosiness, Brooks (and later his mother) oozes his way into Abigail's life. He quickly realizes that Abigail's secrets go very deep and into dangerous territory. And Brooks is falling very hard for the mysterious woman who lives in the mountains with a big mastiff and an even bigger hoard of weapons. What is she hiding from?
I loved Abigail. She's so analytical but underneath that she's craving love. Her mother was one cold fish and Abigail is not used to human interaction. After the events of that one night, her isolation was a necessity to remain alive but she still can't help letting Brooks in when he starts coming around. Aside from Abigail's vulnerability, I genuinely liked her character. She's funny in her own way and worried about social interactions (even googling BBQ etiquette). She was endearing. She was this great blend of kick-ass and vulnerable. I fell for it and so did Brooks.
She stood, the big dog at the heel of her knee-high black boots. She wore jeans, a black leather jacket, and a gun on her hip.
He decided not to overthink the fact that everything about her at that precise moment struck him as grab-your-balls sexy.
It just was-right down to the edgy annoyance on her face.
Brooks was another character to love. He is originally from Bickford but worked in Little Rock for ten years. He's back now as the chief of police. I like how the town came to life through his eyes. I also liked his mother. But Brooks was a charmer and he's a very smart man. He accepts Abigail for who she is and he doesn't push her past what she's comfortable with. He does push a bit at the beginning, but only to get his foot in the door of Abigail's defenses. The following passage is a good example of their early encounters:
"Why do you ask so many questions? Why do you keep coming here, with your wine and your pie? What is wrong with you people? What are you grinning at?"
A lot of the humor in the book came through Abigail and Brooks' interactions.
Earlier I said this book had a good blend of the romantic and the suspenseful. But for me, I'm not the biggest fan of romantic suspense so you'll find that there isn't a lot of suspense. Or that it's not in your face. In the beginning, the suspense is knowing a young Elizabeth is going to have something bad happen to her. A 16 year old girl hanging out with a little bit older friend going to a club and drinking. I was worried when I saw where the book was going. Then when it comes to Abigail - we know that the villains from her youth are still looking for her. So I'm worried that they're going to find her. I'm not going to give anything away but just note that the suspense doesn't happen to Abigail, it happens in our mind, and that's more frightening because we can come up with some pretty freaky scenarios. Roberts did an excellent job of not letting the suspense take over Abigail's story but having it build in our minds.
I don't feel like I'm doing this book justice because I just want to gush about how much I loved it. I hope I did a good enough job to get you intrigued and hopefully get you picking up this book. I received a review copy from Netgalley but this is a book I want in print on my shelves so I can go through it at my leisure. I can't wait to read it again. I highly recommend the Witness. 4.5 out of 5