Thursday, November 19, 2020

Jana Deleon - Damned

When young priest Nicolas Chatry took his vows, he thought the hardest thing he’d have to deal with was accomplishing his duties from a wheelchair. Until a murderer steps into the confessional. Unable to recognize the voice or maneuver quickly enough to get a look at the killer, Nicolas has no way of identifying who admitted to such a horrific deed. And even if he did, his vows prevent him from telling anyone about it.
Unable to live with the knowledge that a predator is walking the streets of New Orleans, Nicolas breaks his vows and hires Shaye to do the impossible—find the killer before he strikes again.

Comment: This is the 7th installment in the Shaye Archer series by Jana Deleon. This is mystery series with very light romantic elements but I've come to appreciate the simple writing which doesn't allow for nonsense and I've been happy to know one more story was waiting for me.

In this story Shaye has a new special client, someone who can't keep a vow taken without thinking how that might put more people in jeopardy from a killer. As the clues pile up without any obvious link to allow her investigation to have a course of action, she decides to keep as close as possible to her client once he starts to be harassed by the apparent killer. At the same time, Shaye's boyfriend Jackson is investigating the case of a missing girl and the suspects he and his partner gather seem to have alibis and things don't make sense, at least until he realizes some details seem to match the investigation Shaye is conducting. Could it be they will need to work together once more?

 I think I might have said this before, but the books in this series are better read in order. Actually, each installment works on its own, with a main case/mystery to solve, but there are also a few scenes related to Shaye's personal life. Although any new reader can probably get the important information out of each one, it does make it easier to understand a few things and, even, several details that seem to come out of nowhere. With the previous books read, most things don't get the readers out of hand.

This to say, this story has a beginning, middle and end which has a good enough resolution but there are a few comments, a few hints, which may sound weird in context but make sense with previous knowledge. I think I can, therefore, say too, that one of the elements in these stories I've come to appreciate a lot is how simple and without any fluff or ramblings. The author writes what is important, her style is clean and smooth and it does feel good to read something without too much going on. However, the other side of this is that the personal side of the story (the focus on Shaye and her boyfriend, or instance) can seem quite distant and overlooked.

The plot of this story was intriguing enough because, as usual, a good part of it is centered in the client who contracted Shaye's services. It's quite nice to know more about a certain character and why that person is special/important for the story. Since the author didn't give in to exaggerations, the characters aren't usually very layered nor too complex and I suppose this might annoy some readers expecting more things or elements to make the story richer or with more things to wonder about. I can understand this but, in the big scheme, I don't believe it matters because the author has a plan and when the story I finished, her choices are simplistic.

I confess I suspected the character who ends up being the killer but the reasons why were slightly...unlikely if possible in real life. It's just the process on how it happened... as for the other suspects, some red herrings were clever, others a little too far fetched but everything got solved in quite an easy bow. The closure one gets when everything is solved was positive, in my opinion, and I could imagine Shaye's client as part of the team organized by her mother in relation to the social work she is managing.

The romance moments are very, very tame and lacking much development. This is not a story focused on how the romance is evident nor on how they go from one step to another... although, by the end, the last scene does imply they might take things to another level.

However, I've read the author isn't planning on writing more novels in this series because they have not been as successful as the publisher would have wanted. If this is, indeed, the end, I'd say it works because what is left up in the air can allow readers to get their own conclusions and imagine whatever. Nevertheless, I hope at least a novella or a freebie on her site could be made available at some point, or something like that, so that the series can have a fully ended HEA.

Grade: 8/10

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