Knight Errant is the sixth and latest in Marilyn Pappano’s series Southern Knights. The books are set in New Orleans in a decaying neighborhood called Serenity Street. The characters in the Southern Knights books all have a common cause. They are fighting a crime boss named Jimmy Falcone.
You don’t have to have read the previous books in the series to understand this book, but it is much more enjoyable if you have. Knight Errant is the story of Jimmy Falcone’s lawyer, Nicholas Carlucci. Nicholas worked for the mob for years, all the while amassing evidence that would put Jimmy Falcone behind bars. Nicholas hated Falcone because he had ordered a hit on Nicholas’ lover Rena. When Nicholas and Falcone were arrested, Nicholas testified against Falcone, but not as part of a plea bargain. Because he did not want Falcone’s lawyer to be able to say Nicholas snitched in exchange for immunity, Nicholas was sentenced to five years in prison. Falcone was also sentenced; ironically his sentence was overturned on appeal and he went free.
When the book begins, Nicholas has been released from prison and is living in an apartment above Jamey O’Hara’s bar on Serenity Street. His next door neighbor is Lainie Farrell who, unknown to Nicholas, is an FBI agent who has been assigned to try and protect him. Lainie has led a hard life. She has survived a failed marriage and a home life from hell. Lainie’s father was so abusive that her mother killed herself and her brother ran away from home when he was very young.
Nicholas is so beaten and defeated that he has no interest in staying alive and does not even care that Falcone has threatened to kill him. The FBI does have an interest in keeping Nicholas alive and Lainie gets to know him and becomes friends with him. Lainie has been working undercover at a women’s shelter on Serenity Street and has grown attached to it and to the neighborhood. She is torn between her duty to the bureau and her attraction to Nicholas and her Serenity Street friends.
Lainie falls in love with Nicholas and, despite a warning from her bureau chief to be careful not to jeopardize her career, she begins a love affair with him. This is the only part that didn’t work for me. Lainie was essentially working this case by herself. She had some contact with the federal attorney assigned to the Falcone case, but she was very much alone in her assignment, and this seemed unrealistic to me – would the FBI have left her so much on her own?
I was easily able to put this problem aside as the story unfolded and just lost myself in it. Marilyn Pappano does a wonderful job of making you sympathize with her characters. I found myself concerned about and hoping for the redemption of Nicholas Carlucci even though he had been a mob lawyer – talk about tortured heroes!
I hope this is not the end of the Southern Knights series. The books are a good mix of suspense and romance and, unlike some of the mainstream romantic suspense books, the main emphasis remains firmly on the relationship between the hero and heroine. I have grown quite attached to Serenity Street and its struggling but still hopeful residents. I would love another trip there.