The scourge that is domestic violence is only just starting to receive significant political attention in Australia. The issue has attracted media attention (off and on) in the past, but a recent series of tragic deaths has well and truly put the spotlight on something which has traditionally been swept under the rug for far too long.
Mary Burton’s latest novel tackles the difficult subject in an entertaining and non-sensationalist way. It’s actually the third in her ‘Morgans of Nashville’ series, but not a problem for newcomers as I hadn’t read its predecessors and had no problem keeping up.
The book kicks off with an attack on Leah Carson on (what would have been) her first wedding anniversary. She berates herself for not seeing Philip’s true colours sooner, but left him after several months of marriage and he’s been harassing her since. Unfortunately he’s a police officer and her protective order has had little impact. And on the night of their anniversary he breaks into Leah’s apartment and stabs her 23 times before leaving her for dead.
We meet Leah again four years later and quickly learn that Phillip was killed in a fiery car crash while on the run. Leah knows she should feel safe, but has been unable to let her guard down.
She’s surprised however, when she feels a sliver of an interest in Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Alex Morgan.
Morgan investigates police officers suspected of misconduct and his latest target is Deirdre—a friend of Leah’s. In order to get the inside scoop on Deirdre he befriends Leah and asks her out on a date. There’s an obvious attraction but Leah’s holding back and Alex has a job to do.
Leah’s also on edge as her wedding anniversary approaches. She’s misplacing things and receiving anonymous flowers—all very reminiscent of her former husband’s menacing behaviour in the lead up to his deadly attack. Leah tries to remind herself that Philip’s dead. Long gone.
However, when Deirdre’s killed—stabbed 23 times—and appears to have had links to Leah’s former husband, Alex and Leah are forced to consider the possibility that Phillip may not have died four years earlier after all.
I’ve read two of Burton’s previous standalone novels but realise this series is similar to those by Karen Rose in that each novel centres on a character who’s played a role in the previous novel. Alex is from a family of cops. Two of his brothers are homicide detectives and his sister a forensic crime scene specialist… two of whom I’m assuming played a central role in the earlier books.
I enjoyed this novel and was pretty much kept guessing most of the way through. The eventual whodunnit seems obvious, and kinda is, but with a few twists thrown in for good measure.
Both Alex and Leah were nicely drawn characters—likeable and realistic. And I was relieved that Leah’s secret wasn’t stretched out over the entire book. I was internally rolling my eyes at the idea of a ‘big reveal’ about her past… knowing all the while that Alex had access to all sorts of police records.
Like Sandra Brown (and others), Mary Burton offers a good balance between romance and suspense. Neither suffers in the telling of this story and I’m keen to track down its predecessors AND will keep my eye out as there’s a Morgan brother who featured minimally in this novel and will (most likely) be the focus in the fourth and final book in this series.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.