Categorising the novels of bestselling author Nora Roberts can be somewhat daunting. Although widely known as a romance writer, many of her novels feature the plot lines of crime and mystery, and her latest novel, The Collector, is no exception. Here, Roberts combines elements of suspenseful murder and intrigue with steamy romance. So if you like your bodies mostly young and buff, rather than pale and dead, then this light mix of romance and thriller offers plenty to keep you entertained.
In urban New York, author of teenage fiction and professional house-sitter Lila Emerson has a thing for watching people – she uses her binoculars to watch the neighbourhood, and make up stories about the people living across from her. Suggestive of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”, Lila’s life takes a drastic turn when one night she witnesses a young neighbour across the road being viciously murdered. When the police arrive at the scene it seems that the woman was murdered by her boyfriend, who is also found dead in her apartment. But appearances can be deceiving, and when Lila meets Ash, the dead boyfriend’s brother, she becomes drawn into Ash’s determined mission to prove the police wrong. Lila’s involvement means that she soon becomes the prime target of a ruthless murderer, who is scouring Manhattan for an elusive and priceless object d’art.
After over two-hundred published novels, Nora Robert’s pretty much has her style down pat, and her characterisations – while not exactly unique – are compelling enough to not be encumbered by their apparent stereotypical nature. As the line on the cover page states “life can change in a heartbeat”; meaning one minute you’re idly sitting in front of your computer trying to write about teenage werewolves, while the next you are whisked away on a private jet by the man of your dreams who just happens to be rich, artistic, and extremely handsome. With a name like Ash Archer – and his very appealing, manly talents – the protagonist does look like your routine romance hero. However, the thing that makes his characterisation interesting is his relationship with the character of Lila, who is funny, sassy and kind in a very genuine and realistic, unpretentious manner. Together, Lila and Ash make a good team, as their journey towards finding the mastermind behind the murders takes them around the rich art world of Manhattan and Italy.
At nearly five-hundred pages long, this is not a quick read, and more than once you will possibly be tempted to skim read over the intermittent clichéd dialogue – and then there will be times where you will be hooked to the action and need to keep reading. In the end, if you can make it past some of the more liberally flourishing adjectives, and you are reading this novel somewhere on a tropical holiday – or failing this snuggled up in front of the heater on the couch – you will most likely enjoy this bit of escapism for what it is.