Person of Interest
Romantic Suspense is one of my favorite sub-genres in romance and is one that can be very difficult to do well. Emery Harper has entered that select group of credible suspense writers with her début novel, Person of Interest. A murder mystery served up with a dose of humor and a realistic hero who doesn’t pace through the book rattling the alpha cage is a refreshing addition to the suspense/mystery category.
Celeste Eagan is a drama teacher at an exclusive preparatory high school. When she and her husband Colin were first starting out, he was hired as a coach and teacher and thought it would be great for them to work together. As a new wife in love with her husband, Celeste agreed and she got the drama teacher job. She used to love her position, but always felt it was just a temporary stop on her way to a career in “real theater.” Now, over a decade later with a husband who left her for another, younger teacher, Celeste is rethinking her decision to settle for a job rather than go for what she really wants. When a steady position comes available in the local theater company, she decides it is time to move on and move up. Unfortunately however, her old job is not yet through with her. When Celeste discovers the principal hanging from the rafters of his office, she becomes embroiled in a murder investigation that puts herself and ex-hubby Colin firmly on the suspect list.
Celeste is a great character for the most part. She really, really does not like Colin’s new girlfriend Naomi, but Celeste is, at the core, a nice person and she takes great care to keep their child out of the middle of any arguments between her divorced parents. She is a good mother to Paige (who is a hoot, by the way) and a good best friend to Levi. Where her character falters just a bit is in the treatment of Naomi as the “hussy” and Colin as the clueless jock who was taken in by her home-wrecking charms. This misogynistic trope has about played itself out as far as I am concerned. It takes two to cheat, and the one who made the vows is the one who should shoulder the bulk of the blame. Even the adjective “hussy” makes me shudder just a bit. There are also a few editing problems (for instance, a smashed cell phone that later turns up intact) that I hope get cleaned up in the final edition. But on the whole, the character of Celeste is likeable and the reader will be able to relate to her and empathize with her.
I really liked Paige. A child of divorce and of academic parents, she is very mature for her age. Throw in the fact that she is naturally gifted and she is almost like another egalitarian and adult character. Children are extremely difficult to get right in literature, and a good portion of the books I have read with child characters have them portrayed as stereotypes or made of cardboard and inserted into the story for no discernible reason. Paige’s character propels the story as any good secondary character should and as a mother, I found her entirely believable.
When Chad (the school principal and murder victim) is found dead in his office, police detective Shaw Muldoon draws the case. But that is not all he draws. He is drawn to Celeste from the very beginning and has to squelch that attraction as the investigation progresses, at least until he can rule her out as a suspect. The relationship that grows between Shaw and Celeste is also believable and organic. While both feel an attraction, there is no “insta-love” in this book and in any case, Celeste has too much on her plate to think about a new relationship. For those who are looking for romance, this might disappoint. The mystery is front and center with the beginnings of a relationship between Celeste and Shaw that I hope is designed to continue throughout the series. What we get in this book is enough to build on.
Harper does a good job at using misdirection to keep the reader guessing as to whodunit and I chewed through Person of Interest in one sitting. The problems I’ve mentioned were not enough to take me out of the story or keep me from enjoying this début romantic suspense novel and I look forward to reading the second Celeste Eagan mystery (In the Bag), due out in January 2017.