Moving Target, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Thursday, February 06, 2003

Yesterday I finished Elizabeth Lowell's Moving Target. This is a pretty recent Lowell, from 2001, and it's Romantic Suspense.

"When you read this, I'll be dead...." These are the troubling words Serena Charters's grandmother has written on a note accompanying four pages of a centuries-old illuminated manuscript delivered after the old woman's passing. That the strange inheritance has considerable worth seems obvious -- but what Serena doesn't realize is how many secrets it hides...and how many lives it has already cost.

Seeking answers, she turns for professional help to Rarities Unlimited, and specifically to Erik North, a reclusive manuscript appraiser with a passion for the past, its people, and its treasures. But Erik's careful examination of the vellum pages and the agonized jottings of a medieval scribe is raising perplexing questions -- about the true importance of Serena's legacy, the possible location of the remainder of the lost manuscript...and the senseless murder of an eccentric old woman in the blistering beat of California's Mojave Desert.

Suddenly, without warning, Serena and Erik find themselves thrust into the center of a lethal firestorm that rages between two worlds...between a past long dead yet living on in an ancient text and a contemporary landscape fraught with peril and terror. Now there is no one they dare trust except each other as they make their way across the concrete and neon deserts of Palm Springs and Los Angeles, getting closer by the minute to a shocking revelation about what really is at stake and how far a killer will go to possess a vanished treasure. In the blink of an eye, Serena Charters and Erik North have become targets of an unseen and determined stalker. And their only hope of survival is to keep moving....

From what I've read, this is a kind of sequel to the Disputed Lands trilogy, set in 12th century England. Apparently there was a character named Erik whose story everyone wanted to read, but Lowell's contract is only for contemps, so she wrote the story of a descendant / reincarnation of the Medieval Erik. Me, I don't mind not having the original Erik's story, basically because I've read only one of the books in that trilogy, the first one, Untamed, and it was only ok for me (a B), so I didn't have much invested in it. Also, I think most of the stuff about Erik is in book #2.

I liked the way the part of the story about the Medieval Erik was presented. It was original and interesting: no boring lengthy flashbacks to get you out of the story! It also helped that the story was interesting. However, at some points, I felt the author assumed we readers already knew quite a bit about it, and left some details out. I didn't, so I really wanted a bit more. I inferred lots of stuff, but it still felt incomplete when I finished the book. In the same vein, there was a pointless visit from characters from the Donovan series, which was pretty irritating for me (I've also read only 1 book in that series).

I enjoyed this book in spite of not being a big fan of the "international intrigue" type of thriller. If you're going to have a suspense subplot, I much prefer more cozy ones (no hitmen, for instance!). This one was halfway through between cozy and international thriller, so I was pretty ok wiht it.

There were three elements which made this book:

  • The protagonists and their relationship. Erik was a sweetie. He was a Beta (a Fuzzy in Rarities Inc-speak, more about that later) by choice. He's a strong character who is great at more violent, dangerous pursuits, but prefers to concentrate on his manuscripts. He's also a nice guy, who's always behaves kindly towards the heroine. Serena was great too. She has issues with trust, which could have made her a very frustrating heroine. She isn't. She realizes she has issues and deals with them pretty reasonably, trusting Erik with lots of information she wouldn't have if she'd followed her paranoid grandma's instructions. She's also very sensible when it comes to her safety, with no TSTL moments. Their relationship is lovely, if a bit understated (ah, the demands of romantic suspense). I especially enjoyed their banter. Only one problem: why don't they share the fact that they are having visions until the end. Both accept that they are and suspect the other is having them too, but they never talk about it.
  • Information about Medieval manuscripts. This was at times presented a bit heavy - handedly ("I've done all this research and, by God, I'm going to use all of it!"), but it was so fascinating I didn't mind. When reading a book sends me running towards my computer to look for more info and pictures of what the characters are talking about, it's good :-D
  • Rarities Unlimited, the company Erik consults for. Yes, it's the "gimmick" which holds the series (this is the first book) together, and I usually despise most gimmicks, but this is a good one. The company sounds fascinating, and I loved Erik's bosses. They're so well developed, I suspected they might have their own book (do they? I haven't been able to find it.)

My final grade for this one is a B+

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