Desert Isle Keeper
I’ve heard people gripe about Garwood’s jump from historicals to contemporaries, but I’m not one of them. Killjoy is a perfect example of why I’m glad she made the leap. Here’s a fast-paced tale of suspense that is balanced with a great romance.
Talent agent Carrie Salvetti has been given a free vacation at Utopia, an upscale spa in Aspen. She’s loath to leave her business but agrees to go, rationalizing that the trip will be a source for Hollywood contacts. But when she arrives in Aspen she learns there’s been a slight change in plans. She’s escorted to a remote mountain home with two other women, and wakes up the next morning to find the house wired with explosives. Anyone so much as opens a window and they all die.
Avery Delaney is Carrie’s niece and an analyst for the FBI. She has some vacation time coming to her and agrees to join her Aunt Carrie at Utopia, only to arrive and find her reservation cancelled and her aunt missing. The situation becomes more puzzling when John Paul Renard shows up looking for Carrie, claiming the credit card used to book the spa stay is owned by a known hitman named Monk. Avery believes him because she had a voice mail message from her aunt talking about a chauffeur named Monk supposedly sent by Utopia to pick up spa guests from the airport. Soon Avery and John Paul are in a race against time to find Carrie and on the run for their lives.
To say anything more about the plot would spoil the fun. The reader should be prepared for a wild page-turner that they won’t want to put down from the minute they pick it up. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, Garwood throws in a new twist. Best of all, she plays fair with the reader: all the evidence is there and when you get to the end the threads add up, no red herrings, no explanations pulled from thin air. You know who the true villain is from page one and it’s intriguing watching them move the players about the stage, especially since the players don’t realize they’re not in charge.
Avery and John Paul are one of the best couples I’ve read about all year. Avery is an optimist and John Paul a consummate cynic, which leads to a lot of witty banter between them. Don’t worry, Avery is no goody-two-shoes; when she’s not smarting off to John Paul about his pessimistic view, she’s griping to herself about their situation. While John Paul appears to be easily annoyed and to have lost faith in most everything, deep down inside he’s a softie and is just what Avery needs to heal the emotional scars from her childhood. There is a scene towards the end of the book between these two where they really talk to each other about their pasts and their motivations. It was that conversation that bumped this book from a B+ to a DIK for me. So often authors drop hints about their characters’ past, but never follow through and leave me unsatisfied because I never feel I really know them, nor do they know each other. That talk between Avery and John Paul was the emotional payoff that writers so often deny readers.
As for the three women in the mountain house – one minute you’ll want to shake them for their naivete and then next you’ll be cheering their brilliance. Carrie is a brittle and loud woman, but Garwood explains her background sufficiently so you’ll understand her. The other two women, Anne and Sara, are nice balance to Carrie’s abrasive attitude. Anne is a particularly intriguing character, someone who isn’t what she seems.
The only drawback was the villain(s) bordered on the cliché towards the end, and their ability to manipulate others seemed a little too unreal. Those who have read Mercy will be most surprised at the change in the hitman, Monk: apparently even sociopaths have the ability to be fools for love.
It is not necessary to have read Mercy to enjoy Killjoy, which more than stands on its own. But it’s nice to see John Paul and Noah Claybourne again, as well as learning the fate of Monk. If you’re unsure about Garwood’s ability to write a contemporary, give this book a shot. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.