Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Thief's Mark (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: Thief’s Mark, Sharpe & Donovan
Author: Carla Neggers
Publication: Mira Hardcover, August 2017
Genre: Romantic suspense
Giveaway: I have one copy of this mystery to give away. If interested, please leave a comment telling me about another romantic suspense book you enjoyed. US/Canada only, please.
Plot: A murder, long-buried secrets, and a man’s search for answers about his traumatic past bring FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan to a quiet English village.

As a young boy, Oliver York witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents in their London apartment. The killers kidnapped him and held him in an isolated Scottish ruin, but he escaped, thwarting their plans for ransom. Now, after thirty years on the run, one of the two men Oliver identified as his tormentors may have surfaced.

Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying the final day of their Irish honeymoon when a break-in at the home of Emma’s grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe, points to Oliver. The Sharpes have a complicated relationship with the reclusive Oliver, an international art thief who taunted Wendell for years. Emma and Colin postpone meetings in London with their elite FBI team and head straight to Oliver. But when they arrive at his country home, a man is dead and Oliver has vanished. As the danger mounts, new questions arise about what really happened 30 years ago.

Although Emma and Colin seem somewhat unnecessary to this story, they try to work effectively with local law enforcement and locals who have no reason to trust these American interlopers and have never revealed what they know about the fateful events of 30 years ago.

Audience: Fans of cozy English mysteries, fans of romantic suspense

My Impressions: On the surface, this book contains a lot of elements I appreciate, a charming setting, mostly in the Cotswolds but also in Maine; a detective duo who are smart and like to banter; loyal retainers; representatives of the MI5, Britain’s secret intelligence agency; and so on. However, it was sometimes hard to follow the plot and the deductions of the characters. It was never clear to me why Oliver’s parents were robbed and murdered – was it for money? If the kidnappers did not plan to ransom Oliver (as we learn), why not kill him with his parents? Why wouldn’t the kidnappers be concerned about being recognized if they (eventually) follow Oliver to the Cotswolds? (Even if they worked for his parents in London, presumably their faces were splashed in every newspaper in the country). Why did Oliver – known for his calm demeanor – really flee when he discovers the dead body and why, once gone, does he so readily agree to return? If he is worried about the accuracy of his recollections on the night his parents were killed, why not consult a professional?

Readers like me who joined this series in progress learn that Oliver is a former art thief who taunted Emma’s art expert grandfather and brother for years but has now stopped stealing and instead provides consulting services to the MI5. This reminded me of The Art of Deception, which we published at Wiley, about the exploits of an audacious computer hacker turned technology security expert. I suggest that readers interested in Emma and Colin go back to book 1, which is called Saint’s Gate.
A Cotswold home I saw in June, which once belonged to Graham Greene.
Henrietta is intended to be a charming heroine, retired from intelligence work and improbably able to support herself as a gardener, despite no training and a dearth of experience while living in London. However, she is alternatively gruff or not very appealing (and why does she dress like an old lady?) so it is hard to care what happens to her (her past adventures as a spy were likely more interesting). I liked Emma better and was intrigued by her past as a nun, but she has little to do in this story except worry about her grandfather and Oliver, and occasionally wish she were still on her honeymoon. I suspect that if I had begun this series with the first book I would have been more invested in the characters. I also might understand why the priest thought he had a vocation instead of embracing his love of Aiofe (supposedly Irish for Ava) O’Byrne (I hope he stays in the priesthood; surely having Emma leave the convent is enough for one series?).

Another thing, as a plot device, aren’t most cell phones password protected these days? Surely that makes it hard to check the phones of murder victims to examine their placed calls.  Finally, I don’t care how charming your Cotswold village is – when there’s an unsolved murder on your block, it’s crazy not to lock your door! While I more or less guessed who the murderer was, I was mistaken as to the precise motive.

Source: I was provided an electronic copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes. I don’t read a lot of ebooks and found the erratic formatting annoying: the way the sentences ran together, it wasn’t always obvious which character was speaking. Reading this as an ebook made it hard to go back to analyze all the issues surrounding the death of Oliver’s parents.
Please join Carla Neggers on her TLC Book Tour by visiting the REVIEW TOUR for Thief’s Mark:

Tuesday, August 29th: Clues and Reviews
Wednesday, August 30th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Thursday, August 31st: Reading Reality
Tuesday, September 5th: Jathan & Heather
Wednesday, September 6th: Deborah Blanchard
Friday, September 8th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, September 11th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Tuesday, September 12th: Run Wright
Wednesday, September 13th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, September 14th: Novel Gossip
Friday, September 15th: Read ‘Till Dawn
Monday, September 18th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 19th: Buried Under Books
Wednesday, September 20th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 21st: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, September 22nd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 25th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, September 26th: Mystery Suspense Reviews
Wednesday, September 27th: Book Nerd
Thursday, September 28th: What I’m Reading


GSGreatEscaper said...

Thanks for your review CLM! Love the cottage - saved the pic for a someday painting. Best D.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.