The Color of Death
I have nothing against a predictable novel of romantic suspense. Sometimes there’s a perverse kind of comfort in knowing exactly how the story will unfold – a glamorous setting, the initial clash of the feisty heroine and the color-outside-the-lines law enforcement hero eventually flaming into great sex, psychopathic bad guys, and, of course, the heroine in peril. All that’s fine. What isn’t fine is asking readers to pay $24.95 for it.
If you’ve read Elizabeth Lowell before, this novel will have an even more familiar feel:
- Independent heroine trying to carve out a career outside the influence of her family.
- Borderline macho hero who is professionally brilliant and something of a renegade.
- Ruthless bad guys whose sites eventually focus on the feisty heroine.
But, with that said, on the positive side, Ms. Lowell’s over-the-top, spare, and undeniably purple prose is nowhere in sight. (Those. One. Word. Sentences. Start. To. Get. Really. Old. Really. Fast.) And, as someone who basically enjoyed Die In Plain Sight but was seriously afraid that the author’s adoration of the Donovan family matriarch might eventually cause me to hurl, this is a major positive development. (Mega-wealthy, mega-famous artist Susa Donovan is as mega-talented as Georgia O’Keeffe; mega-petite, mega-nice to children, pets, and heroines; and mega-adored by her mega-wealthy, mega-perfect family and her mega-wealthy, mega-perfect husband with whom she still has mega-wonderful sex.)
In Color Of Death, the author returns to the gem world explored in her Donovan family novels, a setting that certainly provides an interesting background for her story. Gem cutter Kate Chandler’s brother, a courier working for their family firm, disappears while delivering a valuable shipment of sapphires. Kate cut the stones – collectively known as the Seven Sins – from a single stone privately owned for 100 years. The deep blue color and large size of the stones represent the kind of high quality sapphire rarely mined in modern times, enhancing their desirability to the shady dealers permeating the gem trade.
When the disappearance elicits little to no interest from the FBI, Kate takes matters into her own hands at a gem trade show near her Arizona home. Her efforts, however, attract unexpected attention from FBI Special Agent Sam Groves, a gifted investigator notoriously inept at navigating the muddy waters of internal FBI politics, who is currently working on a special task force dedicated to stopping a string of high profile hijackings plaguing gem dealers.
Of course, Sam’s assignment and the disappearance of both Kate’s brother and the valuable stones are part of the same mish-mash of criminal doings and the two team up. Equally obvious, amidst the really-bad bad guys and the behind-the-scenes machinations of a variety of evil-doers, the sparks between Kate and Sam fly.
As long as you know what to expect – a reliable story with few surprises – The Color Of Death adds up to an average read. However, it’s important to remember that neither the characters of Kate and Sam nor the story itself is in any unique, special, or memorable. Frankly, it’s crystal clear here to the astute reader that a veteran writer is reaching into her bag of tricks and pulling out a workable formula – with “formula” being the key word.
There are many, many, many worse books out there, to be sure. But the sheer gall of William Morrow charging $24.95 hardcover price for such an average read is, to my mind, pretty darn astounding. Elizabeth Lowell knows how to deliver the goods – a bang-up story with great characters that keep you turning the pages – but regretfully, here she doesn’t deliver them.