Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts

In many of her recent standalones, Nora Roberts has minimized the tropes of romance writing in favor of straight action/suspense. That's fine—the romantic elements of her books are the bits she is most prone to recycling—but I do wish she wasn't so fond of really lingering on the POV of her villains. I don't need to read an additional hundred pages of manufactured drama between her protagonists, but I never enjoy devoting that time to an in-depth look at the world view of a psychopath, either.

Shelter in Place, one of the four(!!!) novels Roberts churned out in 2018, opens with a mass shooting ripped from the headlines: three teenage boys open fire in a crowded Maine mall, killing dozens and injuring more. After the attack and its immediate aftermath, the story skips forward in time, showing the survivors' slow recovery from trauma. Another time jump brings us to the present and centers the story around Reed, a young man who became a police officer after the shooting, and fellow victim Simone, now a successful sculptor. When a series of fatal “accidents” start to befall the most high-profile survivors of the shooting, Reed and Simone meet and fall in love, but their newfound happiness has made them a bigger target.

First off: if you are in any way triggered by gun violence, this is not for you. Roberts is an excellent action writer, and the opening sequence in this novel is horribly vivid. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is a step down in quality, even if it is less stomach-churning to read. Reed and Simone don't even meet for 200+ pages and then fall instantly in love, so the bulk of the story is divided between their personal recoveries, the investigation into the ongoing deaths, and the many, many scenes told from the point of view of the killer. Roberts has written a lot of books that zero in on the minds of murderers, but I feel strongly that a half-glimpsed horror is frequently creepier than the entire thing, and reading about an evil nutjob's weight-loss journey or fondness for Florida doesn't actually add to anything but the author's page count.
Posted by: Julianka


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