This is Nora Roberts’ 200th book. A huge milestone. A mega-huge career. Can she keep writing amazing story after amazing story after all this time?
You bet your ass she can. And does. The Witness, for me, is one of Nora Roberts’ best. The storyline is one we’ve read here and there – heroine witnesses a murder, agrees to testify, safe house is compromised, she runs for her life, hiding out from town to town to town. But what makes this book so much more than a sum of those parts is the characters.
We meet Elizabeth when she’s sixteen. She’s grown up under the thumb of a very controlling mother. The good girl, she’s always done what she’s told. Though she’s late coming into her rebellion, she finally lives up to that teenage tantrum the night before mom leaves for a conference. The poor girl just wants to wear a pair of jeans and pursue the career she wants, not the medical path in her mother’s footsteps. Taking her rebellion a step further, Elizabeth heads to the mall after her mother’s departure, really not knowing exactly what she should do there. She runs into a girl from school, they make plans to shop and later have a night out at a local club, which is owned by the Russian Mob.
After crafting fake IDs and they make it into the club, Liz is having the time of her life. She receives her first kiss from a handsome man with a Russian accent, and when it’s proposed they move the party to his cousin’s home, Liz isn’t sure she wants things to go any further. Once there, however, too much drink and excitement exacts its toll on her and while Liz is pretty much out of it worshiping the porcelain god, her world begins to fall apart. Murder, fear, panic, flight, and finally safety finish out her night but are also the beginning of a new life for Elizabeth. Despite her mother’s demanding she return home, Liz insists she must, as the only witness, testify against these men, and she’s taken to a safe house to wait until trial. Having no contact with her parent, she blooms as much as she can under the watchful eyes of two U.S. marshalls. Her seventeenth birthday starts out with gifts – fun, girly gifts she’s never received before – but ends with an ambush and Liz running for her life again, while the blame for the whole fiasco is laid at her feet.
Twelve years later, after successfully, though narrowly, hiding and avoiding the Russian Mob from state to state, city to city, identity to identity, Liz has become Abigail Lowry and finds a kind of peace in Bickford, AR, a small town nestled in the Ozark mountains. She feels as though she’s finally come home, keeps to herself in her high-tech house, her Bull Mastiff her only friend. When the police chief, Brooks Gleason, takes an interest in her, she’s not sure what to do with the man when he never takes no for an answer and charmingly pushes his way into her life.
What makes Abigail such a terrific heroine is you still plainly see her lack of socialization and friends, though she’s been separated from her mother for so many years. She’s direct and blunt; says what she means, means what she says. She’s very intelligent, a computer hacker, software guru, crack shot, and socially inept. But none of that even comes close to scaring Brooks off. Abigail fascinates him. She’s a walking contradiction every time he interacts with her. His slow and easy way is quite misleading with his sharp mind and wit always alert. Their banter throughout the book, from tense and fun early on to loose and sensual later, pulls the reader further and further into their relationship, learning more about them in every scene, while a good time is had by all involved.
Nora Roberts is a master at creating family on the page. What’s so much fun this time around is it’s our hero who has the loving family and has flourished because of it. Brooks gets his respectful and easy-going attitude from his hippie parents, who still hold to their ’60s beliefs, though not as tightly as in those early years. That’s what makes them so much fun. The entire family is unique, and I, for one, would flourish, too, to be a part of their love, loyalty, and generosity. Brooks is a man with all of the very best of that family wrapped into one handsome package. Abigail, at first, doesn’t know what to do with them. And that’s what makes reading her scenes so entertaining. She’s definitely out of her depth, but because of her draw to Brooks, she eventually goes with the flow when they come streaming through the door and then embraces them as fully as the reader does.
Once Abigail learns to trust Brooks, more fun is on the way. This time we get to see Abigail in action, using her intellect her and technology skills to the max. Brooks has told her all along they’ll beat whatever it is she’s hiding, but he doesn’t even dream half of what she’s gone through. It doesn’t daunt him all that much when he finally finds out, however. They work together beautifully.
With 200 books under her belt, it’s more than amazing that Ms. Roberts still comes up with intriguing storylines and charming characters. Brooks has come very close to eclipsing the Quinn brothers as my favorite Roberts hero. I know I’m looking forward to her next 200 books.
Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.
Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems—and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something—and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.
Read an excerpt.