In the still shadows of the confessional, a madman tauntingly reveals his plan for a murder he is going to commit, pulling Father Thomas Madden into a twisted game by disclosing his next intended victim: Tom's sister, Laurant. In a frantic race to protect her, Tom calls upon his best friend, elite FBI agent Nick Buchanan, to track the predator who is closing in on Laurant. Now, as an electrifying attraction grows between Laurant and Nick, so does the danger -- and one false move will cost both of them everything that matters.
I’m a really big fan of murder-mysteries. I love them. Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly… I have a serious addiction. And I like to think that because of my love for all things ‘whodunnit?’ I am quite a discerning reader of the genre. I wasn’t too keen on reading Julie Garwood’s ‘Heartbreaker’ – mostly because before she started writing her ‘Buchanan-Renard’ series (currently with 7 books), Garwood was strictly known for her historical romances. But I thought I’d give it a shot.
I really liked the premise of a killer going to confessional in a bid to provoke the FBI to play ‘cat and mouse’ with him. And after reading the opening chapter I was thinking that my initial reluctance was unfounded. Garwood writes an incredibly chilling confessional scene between Father Tom and the killer;
“You’ve heard it all before? Is that it, Father?”Really great stuff. Unfortunately it all goes a little pear-shaped from there. The mystery takes a back seat to the romance between FBI agent Nick Buchanan and the woman he’s assigned to protect, Laurent Madden. This was what I was afraid would happen – that Garwood wouldn’t be able to balance out thriller and romance.
Before Tom could answer, the penitent whispered, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.”
The mocking had intensified. Tom stiffened. “Would you like to begin?”
“Yes,” the stranger replied. “Bless me, Father, for I will sin.”
It didn’t help that Laurent was hard to like. She’s described as being utterly beautiful – so much so that when she was a teenager living in France she was offered a modelling contract. Nick is constantly commenting on the fact that anytime they are out in public people (but especially men) openly stare at her. In an attempt to make her somewhat tolerable, Garwood has given Laurent the quirk of being wholly unaware of her beauty and even a little bit sheepish when complimented on her looks.
And to top it all off Laurent is damn close to Saintly – she is kind to her elderly busybody neighbours, agrees to help the Abbott in his restoration of the church and doesn’t seem to have a grumpy bone in her body. To be honest, it’s all a little bit much. Especially her being unaware of her affect on men – the local High School ‘track’ team accompany her on her early morning runs (when she’s decked out in spandex) and she seems completely oblivious to their ulterior motives (even when one of the boys brings a donut breakfast along on his run). I know Garwood probably had the intention of combining Laurent’s beauty with total obliviousness in an attempt to endear her to female readers – but what she does instead is make Laurent a bit of a unattainable ‘princess’ and dull-witted to boot.
I think the romance happened a little too quickly. Laurent suddenly decides, in the middle of this FBI investigation in which she is the intended victim, that she loves Nick. There wasn’t really a lot of opportunity for them to fall in love and when Nick tries to tell Lauren that she is experiencing ‘transference’ (or just being grateful that he’s playing her saviour) she adamantly denies. But as a reader I was thinking the same thing as Nick and was never convinced otherwise.
It’s a shame that Garwood insisted that the romance take centre-stage in this ‘thriller’. The FBI/confessional plot really worked for me in the first chapter, but form there on it seems that Garwood preferred to stick to what she knows – romance.
I really liked Julie Garwood’s historical romance ‘The Bride’. I think that genre is her strength, and ‘Heartbreaker’ confirmed it for me.