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Monday, 9 September 2013

‘The Witness’ by Nora Roberts

Published by Piatkus 
13 June, 2013.
ISBN: 978 07499 5521 2

Nora Roberts’s romantic suspense isn’t a style of book I’ve ever actively sought out, but now I’ve sampled more than a small handful of her work, I’m starting to see why people do. She either has a great eye for research or spends a lot of time travelling around the USA; I’ve recently read books set in the Dakotas, the Massachusetts coast and the South and  in each case it felt real. Maybe a little tidied up and prettified, but still real.

The Witness starts out in Chicago, but mainly takes place in small-town Arkansas, an area of the States which remains largely undiscovered by the average British tourist, though if Nora is to be believed, tourism does play a significant part in the local economy down there.

Not that the protagonists of this pacy, sometimes violent novel are tourists. Brooks, the obligatory handsome hero (well, it is romantic as well as suspense), is an Arkansas boy born and bred, and is now the town’s chief of police. Not an arduous career: the odd violent drunk and an unpleasant wild teenage boy are about the extent of the crime he has to deal with. Abigail, the titular witness, is desperately seeking somewhere to disappear to, having been on the run for twelve years following the dramatic events which unfold in Chicago during the first hundred pages. But it’s hard to disappear when both the Russian mafia and the FBI are on your case. Abigail has succeeded up to now, but at a high price; she has no friends, no family, no roots, and spends her leisure time online, keeping tabs on her pursuers and plotting their downfall. Until she meets Brooks, and the carapace she has built around herself begins to crumble in the face of his persistent, uncontrived charm and his warm, hospitable family.

Moulded – or damaged – early by a calculating, diamond-hard mother without a feeling or a nurturing corpuscle in her perfect body, Abigail is scarily intelligent but has practically no social skills and has spent her life avoiding emotional situations. It says a lot about Nora Roberts’s sure hand with character that she remains sympathetic throughout.

The Witness is another great escapist read, different in tone and subject matter from the other Roberts books I’ve read, but just as engaging and page-turning. More power to her for ringing the changes just enough to make each new one as much of a treat as the last.
Reviewer:Lynne Patrick

Nora Roberts was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, the youngest of five children. After a school career that included some time in Catholic school and the discipline of nuns, she married young and settled in Keedysville, Maryland. She worked briefly as a legal secretary. "I could type fast but couldn’t spell, I was the worst legal secretary ever," she says now. After her sons were born she stayed home and tried every craft that came along. A blizzard in February 1979 forced her hand to try another creative outlet. She was snowed in with a three and six year old with no kindergarten respite in sight and a dwindling supply of chocolate.  Born into a family of readers, Nora had never known a time that she wasn’t reading or making up stories. During the now-famous blizzard, she pulled out a pencil and notebook and began to write down one of those stories. It was there that a career was born. Several manuscripts and rejections later, her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981. Nora met her second husband, Bruce Wilder, when she hired him to build bookshelves. They were married in July 1985. Since that time, they’ve expanded their home, travelled the world and opened a bookstore together. She is author of more than 209 romance novels. She writes as J.D. Robb for the "In Death" series, and has also written under the pseudonym Jill March.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.     
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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