Desert Isle Keeper
Confession time: This is my first Nora Roberts book, and I knew when I began reading that if I didn’t like it, I would receive the wrath of countless Nora fans and, more importantly, my mother. My fears of getting disowned were unfounded. For those who enjoy Law and Order, Sacred Sins is what would have happened if Detective Logan and Dr. Olivette had fallen for each other; for those who don’t, well, this is still a darn fine read.
A serial killer in Washington, D.C., is strangling young, blond women with a priest’s amice (or scarf) and leaving their bodies with identical notes reading, “Her sins are forgiven her.” The murderer appears to approach his crimes with a sense of duty unexpected for a serial killer. The baffled police department calls in a psychiatrist, Dr. Tess Court, to provide a profile of the murderer the press has dubbed “The Priest.”
Detective Ben Paris doesn’t like psychiatrists, but he does like Tess. Of course, Tess fits the profile of the victims, and the Priest is aware of the young blond psychiatrist tracking his motives. As Tess begins receiving phone calls from the killer, Ben becomes her protector as well as her colleague, moving into her house and her bed. As their affection grows, the body count continues to rise and the suspected date of the next murder only gets closer.
I enjoyed this book immensely, and I loved both the hero and the heroine. Ben and Tess felt like real people, with careers, hobbies, and lives of their own before they meet each other. Ben and Tess don’t waste a lot of time pretending they hate each other, though they are often at odds because of their professions. A psychiatrist was unable to stop Ben’s brother from committing suicide, and Tess doesn’t understand Ben’s cold attitude toward her work. Tess wants to treat the Priest, but Ben will settle for locking him up. Ben is a man’s man, but not unlikable so; while he’s reserved, he’s good-hearted and willing to admit his mistakes. Tess is very nearly perfect – she’s wonderful at her career, rich, brilliant, and flawlessly beautiful. Normally I have a hard time accepting heroines like this, but here it worked for me because Roberts spent time exploring how Tess’ unrealistic standards for herself affected her.
Sacred Sins has many other strengths. Roberts stays away from easy solutions to problems, which makes the book more poignant and believable. While there is not a lot of sex, Roberts successful conveys the couple’s affection for each other through quiet moments which pack a punch, like Ben wondering whether he can get away with touching Tess’s hair. The supporting characters are also well-drawn; I particularly liked Ed, Ben’s granola-crunching partner, so I was glad to discover that he has his own book (Brazen Virtue).
I found Roberts’ writing style refreshing, especially for a contemporary. Her crisp sentences and concise-yet-evocative descriptions really helped anchor the story in the real world. Best of all was the dialogue, which sounded utterly realistic and connected me with the characters.
Normally I don’t read much romantic suspense because I feel that either the romance or the suspense gets shortchanged. I had no complaints here. The Priest is as much a character as Tess and Ben are. And though I would have wanted a more thoroughly explained ending, I heartily recommend Sacred Sins to any and all. Now I’m off to have a look at my mom’s Nora Roberts bookshelf.