Last Seen Alone
Last Seen Alone is listed as one of Laura Griffin’s rare stand-alone romantic suspense novels. The story of a missing woman, her devoted attorney and the cop determined to see justice done, it’s a lovely book that will be sure to please fans of the genre.
Brandon Reynolds has been a homicide detective in Austin, TX long enough to be resigned to working in the wee hours of the morning. But he’s rarely called to deserted cars in remote areas and wouldn’t have been called to this one if it weren’t for the blood smear found on the door handle and the pool of blood discovered near the vehicle. It’s clear a violent altercation took place, possibly even a homicide. A look at the license and registration left behind shows the automobile belongs to twenty-six-year-old Vanessa Adams but there is no sign of her in the vicinity. The only clue the car yields that might indicate what happened is a business card for Leigh Larson, attorney-at-law.
Leigh is dangerously close to being in contempt of court and has only moments to make it through the security screening process, up the stairs and into the room where the judge presiding over her case is waiting, so the last thing she needs is to be chatted up by a pesky detective looking for information. She brushes Brandon off, assuring him Vanessa is not a client and makes it to the hearing with only seconds to spare. She wasn’t, however, completely honest with Detective Reynolds. Vanessa Adams isn’t a client – she never hired Leigh. But they had met to discuss the possibility.
Leigh is used to being hyper-protective of the women who visit her office. It’s not just an issue of attorney-client privilege; the nature of her work makes her leery of any man looking for those who seek her help. Her clients are victims of sexual harassment — women who have told men “no” and found themselves stalked, slandered, and bullied. Leigh doesn’t have anything against the police, but she knows there is little they can do for those in her care and that some of them are actually complicit in making the situation worse.
Leigh is deeply sorry that Vanessa has gone missing but since she was never hired, she has nothing to offer those searching for the lost woman. But when she gets back to her office and looks through the mail, a check and signed contract from Vanessa are sitting on her desk. What isn’t included is any information at all as to why the woman wanted to hire her. As Leigh pieces together the few hints she can derive from the short conversation she had with Vanessa and uses them to locate witnesses, an all too familiar picture begins to form. A portrait of a lovely young lady who’d fallen for the wrong man and just might have paid the ultimate price for that mistake. A man who might even now be hunting his next victim. A man Leigh is determined to see brought to justice.
Something I really enjoyed about this novel is how clearly the author shows the seriousness of sexual harassment/stalker situations. Ms. Griffin covers more than just the danger of being followed around by an angry man — she shows how lives can be ruined by intimate pictures/videos being uploaded to porn sites, the tricks stalkers use to flush their victims out of hiding, the threats made to their family and friends and the aftermath of dealing with such circumstances. While she never goes into gory details, she explains the intricacies involved well enough that the reader gets a clear, concise understanding of what is involved.
It helps to have that information juxtaposed with two people determined to see justice done for these women. Leigh is a fierce advocate for those she represents and handles their cases with a tremendous amount of compassion. She’s got a good heart, but she balances that by also having a good head. Leigh is careful to use legal channels to get her clients the help they need and to think through what she is doing/advising they do. She has strong protective instincts so it’s natural that she is attracted to Brandon, who takes the ideal of protect and serve very seriously and goes the extra mile to guard those around him. He has a bit of a gruff, stiff exterior but as he grows closer to and more open with Leigh, we see someone who is sensitive, playful and loving too.
The suspense portion of the plot does contain some violence; nothing is needlessly graphic but there are moments of nail-biting tension. The narrative has plenty of twists, turns and surprises to keep the reader guessing throughout and is sure to please those who enjoy their mysteries more intellectual than gory. Those used to the psychological thrillers so popular today might find the ending a bit mundane (the criminals are dangerous, deadly jerks but not the perverted, torturous villains of some of the darker books on the market) but it’s perfectly in keeping with the kind of story the author is telling.
The romance here is in the start-up phase. Brandon and Leigh meet at the beginning of the book and are attracted to each other right away. They interact a lot as they try to figure out what happened to Vanessa and that attraction grows. Brandon can be overly protective, wanting to guard Leigh from any possible harm, but Leigh makes it clear from the start she knows what she’s doing and while she will be careful, she won’t be sidelined. I liked the way this issue was resolved between them. While their relationship grows more intimate as the story progresses and it becomes clear they are deeply attached to each other, the story firmly ends at an HFN. They are together, have the commitment level of a seriously dating couple and that’s where we leave them.
I rarely say this but with Brandon and Leigh at HFN status and the mild flirtation/interest between Kate Morris, Vanessa’s sister, and Antonio Peňa, Brandon’s partner, unresolved, I hope we have a sequel. I would especially love to see what happens between Kate and Antonio. In fact, my only complaint regarding the story is that it offered us just enough of Kate and Antonio to get us interested in them but didn’t provide any closure.
Last Seen Alone is a well-executed romantic suspense story that is sure to please fans of the author. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Ms. Griffin’s work and those who enjoy RS in general.