Her Deadly Secrets
Her Deadly Secrets is the second in Laura Griffin’s Wolfe Security series which débuted last year with Desperate Girls. Unlike the author’s long-running Tracers series, in which the stories revolve around the workings of a high-tech crime lab, and thus have a strong focus on forensics, the Wolfe Security novels feature the operatives of an elite private security company and their protectees, and have more of a straightforward murder/mystery vibe. I’ve enjoyed a number of books by this author, but while the suspense storyline in this one is well-done, the romance is really disappointing and quite honestly, the story would have worked perfectly well without it.
Kira Vance is a hard-working private investigator with a number of cases and clients on her books, the most important of which is the one she’s working on for her mentor, Ollie Kovak, whose services are used regularly by the high-end Huston law firm of Logan & Locke. Brock Logan, well known for defending wealthy people accused of serious crimes, is defending Gavin Quinn, a doctor accused of murdering his wife, and Ollie has asked Kira to meet him at Logan’s house in order to review an important break in the case. Kira hasn’t been there long when all hell breaks loose; someone comes in the front door, shoots and kills Ollie, shoots at Logan and Kira and then gathers up as many of their phones, files and laptops as possible before getting out.
Though shaken, Kira is determined not to fall apart, and equally determined to find out who killed Ollie and why. The stolen laptops and files must mean that the killer was after information relating to the Quinn case – but Kira has no idea what exactly Ollie had been working on before his death or what information he’d wanted to pass on to her that evening. The one thing she’s does know is that finding answers to both those questions is imperative if she’s to get to the truth.
Logan asks Kira to take over from Ollie on the Quinn case, and after she agrees, informs her that now she’s part of his team, she’ll be accorded the same sort of round-the-clock protection as the rest of them. Kira isn’t at all happy about this; she has to be able to act independently and spontaneously in order to do her job so the last thing she needs is to be followed around by guys who “look like the Avengers.” But she agrees reluctantly, intending to bend the rules if necessary.
Kira’s detail is headed up by Jeremy Owen, who has just returned from a job that went from bad to worse and had been hoping for a bit of down-time after his long-haul flight. He’s bummed when he realises that isn’t going to happen, but he’s a professional and he takes his responsibilities very seriously. He immediately senses his new protectee wants nothing to do with him – but that’s tough. He’s got a job to do and he’s going to do it whether she likes it or not.
When Kira gets over being miffed at needing a bodyguard, she soon realises it’s something she can use to her advantage, getting Jeremy to accompany her to various places she needs to go and finding him to be an extremely useful sounding board for her ideas and theories. They develop a good working relationship as they work to track down clues and put pieces of the puzzle together to eventually realise that the murder of Ava Quinn and impending trial has opened a whole other, much more dangerous, can of worms.
While part of the narrative is told from Kira and Jeremy’s points of view, we also get the PoV of Charlotte Spears, the detective assigned to investigate Ollie’s murder. She’s tough, no-nonsense and clever; dedicated to her job, she’s a terrific investigator and someone who trusts her instincts and weighs things up carefully. She’s frustrated by the fact that there are things Kira obviously isn’t telling her, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of doing her job or of being prepared to accept the information Kira does give her and look into it. I liked the way we’re shown her coming to many of the same conclusions as Kira but via a different route.
So… I liked the investigation plotline and I liked that the story features two independent and very determined women, but the book falls down when it comes to the romance, which is perfunctory at best, superfluous at worst. There’s no chemistry between Jeremy and Kira and no sexual tension; their first kiss happens completely out of the blue with no build up or reasoning behind it other than that they’ve both acknowledged that the other person is attractive, and the sex scene towards the end seemed to have been thrown in mostly to satisfy the demands of the ‘romance’ part of the ‘romantic suspense’ label. Quite honestly, I’d much rather read a mystery/suspense novel without a romance (provided I knew that’s what I’d signed up for) than one in which the romance is so poorly developed and executed.
In fact, this is something I’ve been finding more and more often in romantic suspense novels lately. With a few notable exceptions (Rachel Grant and Loreth Anne White come to mind) nearly all those I’ve read recently contain romances barely deserving of the label. I like a good suspense plot, but I expect a good balance between the romance and the suspense in a romantic suspense novel, and that’s not something I’ve found very often of late – not in m/f romantic suspense, anyway. In m/m, however, it’s a different story, because some of the best romantic suspense around right now is to be found there. Seven of Spades, Fish Out of Water, Big Bad Wolf, Hazard and Somerset – to name but a few – are all terrific series and strike the right balance between the two elements, perhaps because the romances get to develop over several books rather than just one single title.
I’m giving Her Deadly Secrets a qualified recommendation because even though the romance was a non-starter, I really did enjoy the plot and the way the author gradually pulled everything together. I’ll continue to read Laura Griffin’s books because I like her writing and there’s no questioning her skill in constructing complex, intriguing plotlines and creating likeable characters. I’ll just have to remember to adjust my expectations when it comes to the romance part of this particular romantic suspense series.