Desert Isle Keeper
When All the Girls Have Gone
Jayne Ann Krentz is the author who turned me into a romance reader in the late 1990s. While I’ve liked many of her recent books, I never expected I would give another a DIK, until I read When All the Girls Have Gone. It’s truly one of my favorites of hers.
Charlotte’s Sawyer’s sister is away at a tech-free retreat. While Charlotte is watering her sister’s plants she discovers an envelope containing a cryptic note and some keys. The note – from one of her sister’s friends – hints the friend is in danger and alludes to a mysterious file of importance to Charlotte’s sister. When Charlotte calls the woman’s office she learns the woman is dead. Charlotte decides to take the keys and have look around the deceased’s apartment; there, she discovers Max Cutler.
Max, a former federal criminal profiler, recently relocated to Seattle and opened a private detective agency after his job and marriage fell apart. While the police think the woman died of an overdose, Max has been hired by one of her relatives to prove the police wrong. Charlotte doesn’t believe it’s an OD either, and while they’re skeptical of each other initially, the two quickly team up to investigate the woman’s death. The clues lead them to a dark incident in Charlotte’s sister past, to other women supposedly dead of ODs, and to several life threatening situations.
I liked so much about this book, but most of all I loved Max and Charlotte. They’re both fully developed, with flaws, quirks, and strengths. While not exciting – the describe themselves as “one-foot-in-front-of-the-other” types, they feel real. They respect each other’s talents and skills, and develop a true friendship as well as a believable romance.
Max is struggling for clients and needs to take any job he can get. He drinks beer, makes tuna sandwiches, thinks of pickles as vegetables. He’s haunted by his childhood past in which his mother belonged to a cult. When the cult leader decided things were going south, he locked up all the children in a barn and set it on fire, killing many of the adults including Max’s mother. Max and the other children were rescued by a law officer who became permanent guardian for Max and two other boys. He thinks of this man as his father and the two men as his brothers. Max is still searching for the cult leader, believing he may be alive. It’s this belief and obsession that led to the end of his marriage.
Charlotte has her problems as well. Her fiancé recently dumped her five days before their wedding and in front of the residents of the retirement village where she works. When Charlotte tried therapy to deal with the situation, her therapist encouraged her to be more spontaneous and accept some of the blame for her fiancé’s actions. She fired her therapist.
A friend in the mystery world recently clarified the difference between suspense and mystery. In suspense we know who the villain is, and often get scenes from their PoV. In a mystery, we’re uncertain who the villain is, and the focus is on how the main characters solve the crime. When All the Girls Have Gone is an interesting mix of suspense and mystery. It’s clear early on who at least one of the villain’s is, but the author throws in a lot of twists before the story is finally resolved.
I hope Ms. Krentz plans to write romances for Max’s brothers as I’d love to see more of Max and Charlotte. I highly recommend this book to both longtime fans and to those who haven’t yet given her a try. I found it to be a satisfying mix of suspense, romance, and friendship, with two great main characters.