'Tis the season to be suspenseful, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure! In this holiday treasure, four romantic-suspense writers try their hands at stories of holiday-themed love and intrigue. The standout is from J. D. Robb (a pseudonym of the bestselling Nora Roberts), whose futuristic suspense story, "Midnight in Death," begins with the delicious line, "Murder respects no traditions."
From this opening, police detective Eve Dallas has walked into the scene of a particularly nasty crime -- a man has been hanged, but slowly and painfully, with a biblical phrase carved into his body: Judge not lest you be judged. The man is a judge, and with him Eve finds a list of others who the killer is after -- and her name is at the bottom of that list!
It has shades of "Seven," but this is not a sadistic horror story, for J. D. Robb always manages to present a compelling detective story without much in the way of gore. Dallas was prepared to celebrate a nice Christmas with her husband, Roarke, but now it looks as if a killer is on the loose -- and one she knows all too well. The serial killer in question is none other than David Palmer, a man Eve had arrested after Palmer left a trail of corpses behind him. Now he's escaped from an off-planet penal colony. The murder story takes over Eve's life, but her romance heats up with her hubby as she proves that some women can have it all. A taut story, with a good deal of Christmas, tension, and love in heavy doses along with a neat murder mystery.
The other stories also rise to the occasion. Dee Holmes's "The Unexpected Gift" is an ironic and beautifully told tale of a woman and her young son who are managing their first Christmas without Daddy after the divorce. Sabrina McKay's son, Josh, finds something shocking nearby -- a dead body. Their entire holiday is changed with this discovery. In Claire Cross's offering, "A Berry Merry Christmas," an unusual nanny has a message for an orphan named Natalie and her Uncle Drew. And in Susan Plunkett's "Christmas Promises," Marne York gets a Christmas surprise when her former boyfriend is sent to give her a ride. Jake is not the guy she's wanted back in her life, but soon she and Jake join forces to track down a missing child.
All in all, this is a wonderful holiday sampler from these writers, who have delivered a stocking stuffer of a book for fans of romance, suspense, and the season of joy. Highly recommended, particularly for the instant-classic J. D. Robb story.
Jessi Rose Lucas, barnesandnoble.com
Jessi Rose Lucas's first romance novel, The Swan Prince, is forthcoming. She lives on the New England coast and is currently working on her second novel, The Tarnished Knight, a medieval romance about Lancelot and Guinevere.