3 1/2 stars
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy of this book, and sped through it fairly quickly. The Witness is Nora Roberts' 200th book. Can you believe that? This woman is a writing machine. While not one of my top 10 Nora Roberts books, (I reserve those spots for books like Midnight Bayou and Carolina Moon and The Perfect Neighbor), this book was definitely on the better side. It was interesting to see Ms. Roberts once again use the technique of beginning a book when her main character is very young, and then advancing the book forward.
The Witness begins with Elizabeth at the age of 16 rebelling for the first time in her life, and it does not end well. I think Ms. Roberts has a real knack for portraying her characters in a realistic light. When we begin the book, we truly can imagine this poor little girl rebelling against her cold, controlling mother, and wanting to do anything to be able to live her own life. As it turns out, that's not an option for many more years.
The beginning of the book is paced very quickly. There is a lot of information that Ms. Roberts is trying to portray to the reader, and she has a very deft touch. The reader never feels like Plot Anvils are raining down on their heads. Once the book moves forward to present day, the pace naturally slows a little. Slower town, slower life, slower plot. Again, it works. I liked Brooks a great deal, and I totally fell for his parents, but I never quite connected with Abigail the way I would have liked. It's almost like Ms. Roberts couldn't quite decide which way she wanted to go with Abigail: Super smart with a tender heart? Socially awkward and inept? Suspicious, capable and overly-protective of her privacy? While Abigail is all those things, I felt as if Abigail would don the traits of the particular part of her personality the situation called for. It never truly felt like they were all different sides to the same woman. That's unfortunate, as Abigail had the potential to be a complicated and complex character.
There is a small subplot throughout the book dealing with Brooks' best friend Russ and the hotel Russ runs. I could see Ms. Roberts using it to lay the foundation for Abigail's growth and her realization she will never be able to live her own life her own way without facing her past. I would have liked to have seen this plot begin just a little bit earlier in the book. If we had seen this subplot advance a little faster, the resolution wouldn't have seemed anticlimactic. As it was, against the backdrop of this larger crime and danger and resolution, it felt like it became nothing more than a nuisance to Brooks.
A trademark of a Nora Roberts book is an underlying thread of humor throughout. She does not disappoint here. In one of the darkest, most serious scenes, when Abigail has told Brooks all about what happened and what the risks are, there is a moment which could have gone horribly wrong and turned into a scene of obnoxious slapstick humor, and instead it does it's job and lightens the mood of both the characters and the reader, and makes you laugh out loud through your tears.
Finally, one of my biggest "complaints"is a pet peeve of mine with various authors. Using similarly spelled/pronounced names in the same book. It's one thing in real life when you go into a room and there's a Kristin and a Kiersten, but this is fiction. The author has an entire world of names from which to choose. Why would you choose such similar names? It only confuses the reader. Okay me. It confuses me. In this book we have a Sybill and a Sylbie and an Agent Peski and Agent Pickto, and if you think I didn't have to pause and do a little mental jig to figure out who was whom, think again. An entire WORLD of names out there, everyone. Choose wisely.
On the whole, an enjoyable book, and one I'll reread in the future.
Lynda the Guppy
aka Fish With Sticks