Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers – A Review
I got this book from Ms. Neggers’s publicist in exchange for an honest review.
Book Description from Book Cover: When Emma Sharpe is summoned to a convent on the Maine coast, it’s partly for her art crimes work with the FBI, partly because of her past with the religious order. At issue is a mysterious painting depicting scenes of Irish lore and Viking legends, and her family’s connection to the work. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.
Colin Donovan is one the FBI’s most valuable assets–a deep-cover agent who prefers to go it alone. He’s back home in Maine after wrapping up his latest mission, but his friend Father Bracken presents him with an intrigue of murder, international art heists and a convent’s long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As the danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain on only one thing–the very intriguing Emma Sharpe is at the center of it all.
A ruthless killer has Emma and Colin the crosshairs, plunging them into a race against time and drawing them deeper into a twisted legacy of betrayal and deceit.
This is the first Carla Neggers book I’ve read, so whether this book is typical of her storytelling, I don’t know. However, as I read, I felt like I’d walked into the middle of a movie and missed the first half. There are many references to a previous case (where Emma’s information was vital to Colin’s success although the two had never met until this book) that I tried to look up the first book. However, unless I’ve misinterpreted what I read from other book descriptions, there is no book with these characters prior to Saint’s Gate. That left me feeling as though I didn’t have the whole story on the characters.
What I Liked: The Maine coast setting was luscious. Since I’ve been in the area where some of this book takes place (although the names are changed in the book), I had no trouble picturing the setting in my mind. Ms. Neggers writing is strong and descriptive. She has plotted in an interesting mystery in which I didn’t figure out the antagonist until near the end, something that is very rare for me. Her heroine, Emma Sharpe, is strong, smart, and emotionally deep. I liked her a great deal and I felt like there was more to her than we see in this book. Her brother, a secondary character, also intrigued me and I would have liked to have spent more time with him. The mystery begins as a murder and art theft, but become more as other art objects are found to have been stolen worldwide, although in most cases the owners never reported the crimes. I am a sucker for a good art theft mystery.I would also like to know more about Emma’s boss, Matt Yankowski.
What I Didn’t Like as Much: I didn’t find myself attracted to the hero, Colin Donovan as much as I would have liked. I didn’t feel there was the sexual chemistry between him and Emma to support the eventual sex scene. Maybe it’s because I read more romance than mystery/suspense, I didn’t feel much emotional depth between Emma and Colin. I was told there was attraction but not much was shown in the description. At times the dialog didn’t seem to fit the scene. This happened more than once causing me to flip back a few pages to see if I’d missed something that would have made a character say that. I hadn’t missed anything. It just seemed like random comments out the blue, but instrumental to solving the crime or moving the story along. When the villain was reveled, I admit I was surprised because the inciting incident had happened like forty years prior and nowhere in the story did I get that this person’s age was near forty. I had pictured him in his late twenties, maybe early thirties but that’s it. I’ve looked for a detailed description of the antagonist to see how I missed his age, but either I’ve overlooked it, or it was never there to begin with.
Verdict: I think the story had more potential than was developed. I didn’t buy the sexual attraction between the hero and heroine and the “I love you” at the end rang false. However, this is the start of a new series for this author, so it is possible the characters will continue to develop with each book. Neggers fans will enjoy this book. I suspect that new Neggers readers may have mixed opinions.
I’m giving my ARC to one lucky reviewer. Leave a comment here on this review. I’ll pull a winner on Friday, August 19. Thanks