Synopsis: After her four-year-old daughter tells her that a sick man is lying in their front yard, Honor Gillette discovers that the man is Lee Coburn, accused of murdering seven men the night before. Armed and deadly, he promises Honor that she and her daughter won't be hurt if she does everything he asks. Then Honor witnesses a shocking act of brutality – and learns that even those closest to her can't be trusted. Claiming that her late husband possessed something valuable and dangerous, Coburn convinced her that he must find it before it falls into the hands of The Bookkeeper, a merciless crime boss who will stop at nothing until they are all dead. Now from Washington, D.C., to coastal Louisiana, the desperate trio run for their lives from the very people sworn to protect them, unraveling a web of corruption and depravity that threatens the fabric of our society.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, 2012; 465 pages (not counting excerpt at back of the book); purchased new.
My thoughts: In my opinion, Sandra Brown is the queen of suspense/thrillers. I was first introduced to her through her straight romance novels, which I enjoyed. The first one I have noted on my reading log is HIDDEN FIRES in 2002. In 2003 someone gave me a copy of THE WITNESS, and it is still one of my all time favorite books. It was my introduction to Ms. Brown as a mystery/suspense writer, and she is one of the few authors whose books I buy new because I want them right away.
Honor Gillette is the widow of a police officer, living alone with her young daughter, who is just adorable. While she is working in the kitchen one morning, Emily comes in and announces there is a hurt man lying in the grass. Honor goes out to investigate and suddenly finds herself at gunpoint. Lee Coburn forces her back into the house, where he holds Honor and her daughter hostage. He's a scary brute of a man and he's wanted for the murder of seven men the night before. He ransacks Honor's home, claiming that her husband had something valuable that he needs to find, though he has no idea what exactly he is looking for.
It's no spoiler to say that Coburn is, of course, actually the good guy. He is able to convince Honor that her life, and the life of her daughter, are now in danger, and the three of them end up going on the run together.
While Honor's gut tells her to trust Coburn, she is still frightened and wary of him. Emily, on the other hand, is enraptured by him from the beginning, and for the most part she enjoys the “adventure” her mother tells her they are having. Coburn is a very closed off man, the silent, brooding,wounded alpha hero type that I love to read about. He's not thrilled to have a kid along and not sure how to talk to one, but he is determined to keep both mother and child safe, even though he seems to expect that his own number will soon be up.
The relationship between Coburn and Honor builds slowly and realistically. Even once Emily has been left in the care of Honor's best friend, Coburn and Honor don't just fall into bed together. The attraction is there from the beginning, but neither has any intention of acting on it. Coburn wants to find what he's looking for, finish the job he started out to do and be rid of this woman. Honor wants to keep her daughter safe, and prove that her husband was a loyal officer and not a dirty cop.
But the ending. As much as I loved this book, I was a little disappointed with the ending. The narrative moves seamlessly from Coburn and Honor to other members of the large cast of characters, good and bad, but we never actually meet The Bookkeeper, who only interacts with other characters by phone. I was completely clueless as to the identity of The Bookkeeper, and when that identity was revealed I was a little taken aback. I still feel a little jarred and disbelieving by it. Though in real life, people often feel that way about high profile criminals, so I guess that's actually realistic.
And then the Epilogue left the story feeling unfinished, though of course in my head I know exactly what happened next and nobody can convince me differently.
Overall the book lived up to the tense, edge of your seat standard I've come to expect from Ms. Brown, and my love affair with her heroes continues.