When you open an Annette Mori novel you literally never know quite what you are going to get. Her stories are all very different, quirky, with unusual characters and served with a huge dollup of humour.
In ‘Captivated’ we meet Juliet who almost defies description. Beautiful, but completely unaware of it, she has suffered from a bizarrely strict upbringing and developed into somebody with decided idiosyncrasies.. she’s OCD and fanatical about hygiene and germs, but she is also the town snoop who just cannot keep her nose out of everyone else’s business. She isn’t a gossip, which redeems her, but the amateur sleuth just has to know what every one is up to.
The local law enforcement is hard nosed loner Tanner Sullivan, scarred from the loss of her partner and set on revenge. When Juliet see’s her take out the local drug dealer, apparently in cold blood, Tanner has no choice but to stash her in an out of the way, and extremely dirty, cabin. Juliet knows she is in deep trouble, that her obsession has caught up with her. She also knows her best chance for survival is bonding with the handsome cop.
The characters are extremely unusual for a lesfic romance/crime novel, but they grow on you, inexorably digging into your heart with their nutty moral code and eccentricities. Most of all they both know themselves enough to understand how unusual it is to find anyone who will accept them, and out of this comes a huge sense of tolerance for the oddities of others.
There is a large cast of townsfolk who flit through the scenes and gradually take shape. From the cheating estate agent to the dirty pharmacist Mori has created a strong background of complex characters who are drawn with great detail despite their minor roles. She has an amazing ability to create a sense of being there, knowing these people, as though you could walk into town and recognise every players.
The story is a combination of madcap coincidences and solid murder mystery, with a side order of undercover agent and a strong thread of keystone cop. It’s about serious crimes, but while the actions are deadly, the scenes are almost comedic at times, particularly Juliet’s total inability to do what she’s told.
It took me a little while to get into this one, the characters need time to grow on you, but it is worth every second; funny, serious, entertaining, amusing and sweet. This could definitely become a series, and I would love to know what they get up to next.
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(publisher review copy received)
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