No Safe Place
No Safe Place has several good things going for it. First and foremost, the hero and heroine are smart and sexy and share a great relationship. Next, the post-Katrina setting in New Orleans is very atmospheric – I could almost feel the humidity. However, the plot which began well, ended up as murky and convoluted as the Mississippi River when it reaches the Louisiana Delta.
Kate Delany and her sister Tara grew up with a mother on the grift. Kate learned how to do cons at a time when most girls were playing with dolls and she drifted from place to place when the marks got on to them. When Kate’s mother was arrested, she ended up in a foster family headed by a cop. He became her mentor and when she became of age, she took his last name as her own and went into police work. As a reaction to her amoral early life, Kate became a by-the-book cop who only saw things in black and white. When she testified against some of her fellow officers in a corruption deal, the thin blue line closed against her and her boss gave her some time off. As the book begins, Kate hears that her sister has just been found, an apparent suicide, in New Orleans.
Kate’s sister Tara had become a prostitute in a gambling boat on the Mississippi run by Leon LeBlanc. She got tired of her life, and having fallen in love with a voodoo practitioner from Haiti, she wanted out. Tara was funneling information to Nick Broussard in the hopes that he and partner Remy Landreaux could accumulate enough evidence to put the LeBlancs out of business. But Nick was accused of corruption and left the force. Tara lost her link with the NOPD, and given the fact that New Orleans is still at heart a small town, some one could easily have talked to the LeBlancs, or maybe Tara did kill herself…or maybe there’s a third possibility. In any case, Kate means to find out the truth.
When Kate comes to New Orleans, she finds the police aren’t working very hard on her sister’s case. After all, she was a prostitute and the evidence looks like it was suicide, but Kate wants to investigate it further. One of the detectives (Remy) advises her to find a private detective and recommends Nick Broussard.
Kate and Nick immediately strike sparks off each other. At first glance, they are polar opposites – he is all laid back Cajun charm and she is crisp and uptight, but they share a passion for justice. Kate grew up with a grifter mother and Nick’s father was a corrupt cop; both rebelled by embracing law and doing the right thing. Their personalities may be very different, but Nick and Kate’s moral compasses both point in the same direction. I liked them both at first glance and they were by far the best thing in the book.
The book begins well, but after Kate and Nick meet, suffers from a meandering middle. They walk, they talk, they fall in love and have some wonderful love scenes, and this is all fine and dandy. Then in the last third of the book, the mystery plot kicks back in and the author begins to stuff everything she can think of into it. Events became rushed and confused and I was a bit lost at times. The ending (in a swamp – can’t have a mystery set in Louisiana without a swamp) showcases Kate as a thinking kick-ass heroine and not a shrinking victim, while Nick’s former training as a Navy SEAL comes in very handy, and all the loose ends tie up in a neat bow.
Despite the saggy middle, No Safe Place was still a bit better than average and could have been really, really good if it had been tightened up. If you can overlook that, and are a fan of books with a New Orleans setting, this will fill the bill.