Die In Plain Sight, by Elizabeth Lowell (Rarities #3)

>> Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Die In Plain Sight is the third in Elizabeth Lowell's Rarities, Unlimited, following Moving Target and Running Scared.

I've been liking Lowell's latest releases very much. I know there are many fans (most of them, probably) who much prefered what she used to write before when she was doing historicals and category romance, but I much prefer the kinder heroes of her latest romantic suspense titles.

When Lacey Quinn inherits the striking landscapes done by her late, much-loved grandfather, she believes they are as good as anything hanging in museums. But the paintings now in her possession are more than the works of a talented master. They are anguished voices from the grave . . . crying murder!

Lacey begins researching her grandfather's past -- and is rocked almost immediately by a strange series of violent events. Someone wants to steal her inheritance, to reduce the paintings to unrecognizable ashes in a suspicious blaze. Someone wants to prevent Lacey from examining her grandfather's work too closely . . . by any means necessary.

Ian Lapstrake, a security specialist, has taken an interest in Lacey's inheritance . . . and in her. Troubled by what he sees, he becomes Lacey's shadow, as her search for answers leads them both down an ever-darkening road paved with lies, blood, and devastating secrets.
I quite liked this one. It has the best features of the other books in the series and improves on what had bothered me the most about Running Scared. A B.

The main thing I'd had a problem with in Running Scared was the sheer number of pages spent with the villains, both the really evil ones and the ones who were just mildly mean. It seemed to me as if every other chapter put me in the company of truly unpleasant and amoral (and very un-interesting and dumb) people.

There is a bit of that here. We do spend a lot of time with the Forrest family, but a) there was a degree of uncertainty, because while these people were suspicious, we didn't positively know whether or not they were the villains; and b) while the family patriarch was quite unpleasant, the rest of the family was much better. I was even mildly interested in the subplot of Bliss Forrest's relationship with the sheriff, her ex-husband. She and Rory (the sheriff) and her brother Savoy weren't so bad, so I didn't really suffer through these scenes. I mean, most of the times I would have preferred to be with Ian and Lacey, but they weren't a chore to read.

And speaking of Ian and Lacey, they were very enjoyable characters. I especially liked Ian. At one point, Lacey thinks of him as a "gentle warrior", and that description fit him perfectly. I'll repeat it: I so much prefer Lowell's more recent heroes to her more alpha-asshole guys from very early books!

I was actually a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed Ian and Lacey together. This is a book where the conflict is wholly external. These two are immediately (and quite explosively) attracted to each other and, they are very open about it. They quickly fall into bed and each acknowledges to the other exactly how they're feeling. If it hadn't been for the whole problem with the paintings, I imagine they would have been pretty much married in a couple of weeks (and they would have, because they even meet for the first time independently of the paintings, when Ian happens to go into Lacey's shop).

And yet, despite the seeming lack of conflict, I still had plenty of interest in their relationship. There was considerably more romance here than in the first entries in this series, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Their chemistry and banter and obvious enjoyment of each other was engaging enough to keep me interested.

Oh, and I musn't forget about Susa! Painter Susa Donovan is the woman Ian is protecting when he meets Lacey (for the second time), and she's a recurring character in Lowell's books. She's the mother of all those Donovans of Lowell's previous series, and it was interesting to see more of her than the throwaway references we'd had in those books, even if I did think she was a bit of a Mary Sue character. Still, I enjoyed the almost mother-daughter relationship she and Lacey developed. I hope Lowell will do something like this in another book with the two owners of Rarities, Dana and Niall. They had a bigger presence in the previous books, here they were just voices on the phone.

The suspense subplot was interesting to read, especially all the stuff about the art, but the solution was way, way too obvious. From the very beginning the whole mystery about the origin of the paintings was so straightforward that I was almost sure Lowell didn't mean to keep it a secret from the readers, and Ian and Lacey look a bit silly for never even thinking of it. Heh, I'm trying to be cryptic, but I don't know why. Absolutely anyone who reads it will come to the same conclusions within 50 pages.

Same thing with the villain. There's a very obvious person from the very beginning, someone so obvious he might have been wearing a sign reading "Villain" on his chest. I thought, ok, he's so obvious he can't possibly be the one, and was looking forward to some cool twist and a villain I'd never even considered, but nope. He was indeed the one. A bit disappointing, really.

Other than this, a fun book. 518 pages long, and it just flew by!


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