When Eli Landon found his estranged wife, Lindsey, bludgeoned to death in their marital home, his life was thrown into complete meltdown. As the Boston Police Department's prime suspect, he found himself abandoned by most of his friends and also by his colleagues. Though Boston P.D. have been unable to prove his guilt, the stigma of being a suspected murderer still hangs over him and with his legal career as well as his private life in tatters, Eli retreats to his grandmother's coastal home, Bluff House in Whiskey Bay, Massachusetts, in order to complete the novel he's writing and to try to get his life back on track.
Those convinced of Eli's guilt aren't finished with him yet, however, and not only a private investigator but murder follows him to this remote and rocky part of Massachusetts. It's more than time for Eli to find out who killed his wife and, more to the point, why they did so.
When she's on form, Nora Roberts is more than capable of writing a cracking story full of suspense and romance in equal measure but with this latest offering, to my mind, she falls somewhat short on both counts.
The story is written mainly from Eli's perspective and though it isn't the first time the author has done this, it does make a refreshing change from most romantic suspense which tends to concentrate entirely on the female point of view. Despite that, I found it hard to feel much empathy with Eli. His life before the murder seemed pretty sterile and I really can't believe that all his friends would have abandoned him; surely one or two really good ones would have stuck by him. Truth to tell, he comes across as a bit of a wimp which makes it quite hard to believe he'd ever been a hotshot lawyer. Having said that, I can believe that after the trauma of being involved in a murder he would want to retreat and lick his wounds.
Eli is house-sitting for his elderly grandmother who's currently recuperating back in Boston after having had a nasty fall down the stairs. Nobody knows quite what happened to make her fall but it not only left her badly injured but also resulted in a degree of memory loss. In her absence, a local woman has been looking after the house and, of course, she's young, beautiful and, quite frankly, a pain in the backside!
Initially, Eli isn't too keen on Abra Walsh and I certainly wasn't. She's one of those pushy women who immediately get under the skin and not in a good way. If she isn't practically force-feeding Eli, she's directing all other aspects of his life. It's no wonder it's taking him so long to finish writing his novel! I think the author intended her to come across as feisty and independent and I guess she does in a way but such as to be more appealing to American readers perhaps than European ones. I just found her a deeply irritating and her upbeat positivity was far too New Age for my liking. I know Americans talk more about feelings than Brits but there was just a bit too much navel gazing here and Abra especially seems keen to bare her soul at the drop of a hat.
This novel is marketed as romantic suspense but I'm afraid I found the romance between Eli and Abra to be little more than incidental and it was hard to find much that was particularly suspenseful about the story either. It isn't long before Lindsey's murder, Eli's grandmother's fall and a pirate treasure legend from the history of Bluff House are all interlinked and the story then sort of morphs into an episode of Who Do You Think You Are for a while. As for the criminal elements, I found it quite a stretch to believe in the motivations for the crimes and, again, I got the feeling that Nora Roberts was just going through the motions.
As well as writing romantic fiction, Nora Roberts writes an excellent futuristic crime series under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb, and just lately I've gained the impression that most of her time is concentrated on that series. As a consequence, her romantic fiction has suffered slightly and certainly seems to have taken a bit of a back seat. This one came across to me as more of a pot-boiler than anything else.
Whiskey Beach isn't a bad book by any stretch of the imagination as Nora Roberts is too good a storyteller for that, but it just didn't quite gel for me. I suppose such a prolific writer can't help but repeat herself occasionally and this story comes across as a mash up of a number of her other novels and consequently it lacks any feeling of freshness. There were simply no surprises.
This book is currently only available in hardback for just over £10 or in Kindle format for £8.49. I borrowed my copy from the library but if I'd paid £10 for this book I would have been very disappointed.