Sunday, September 7, 2014

Harbor Island

by Carla Neggers
Harlequin            2014
283 pages     Mystery

Carla Neggers is a prolific writer. She writes installments for six different series of books and has written several stand alone novels as well. Harbor Island is number 4 in the Sharpe and Donovan series. This series features two FBI agents, Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, who are part of an elite FBI unit uncovering art fraud and thefts. In Harbor Island, they have just become engaged.

Emma comes from a family of art detectives, who work in Ireland and the United States. As part of the FBI team, she and Colin are investigating a series of thefts going back ten years. The thefts all seem to be connected to a murder (from a previous book) in Declan's Cross, Ireland. They included paintings by Jack B. Yeats, ancient Celtic crosses, and an early painting of Aoife O'Byrne, one of the characters in the novel. Early in Harbor Island, another murder occurs on one of the outer islands in Boston Harbor. Sharpe and Donovan travel from Boston, to Ireland, to London, to Maine and back to Boston as they uncover the thefts and the murderer.

There is mystery, romance, murder, attempted murder, and two villains. It is pretty predictable. It was obvious from the beginning that the books in the Sharpe and Donovan series should be read in order, although Neggers tries to bring the reader up to date. However, a lot of characters, settings, and plots that occurred in previous books need to be reintroduced, and it is easy for the reader to get bogged down in these backward looks. It takes a dedicated reader to wade through all the characters and plot devices from previous novels. 

This is my first novel by Carla Neggers, and it came to me from the publicist. I was curious because I couldn't imagine how one author could successfully navigate so many series. Additionally, I was curious about the islands in the Boston Harbor and the village of Declan's Cross in Ireland. I also was able to look up the painter Jack B. Yeats, who was the brother of W.B. Yeats, the writer. 

Frankly, I started and stopped this book several times. I  don't really know why I finished it. I wasn't sure what the author intended this book to be—a romance, a mystery, a cozy, or a travelogue, so I kept reading. None of the characters, including the two main characters, Sharpe and Donovan, are particularly appealing, and it seemed to me that there was so much character development that could have happened. Perhaps if I had read the series from the beginning, I would have had a greater sense of who these characters were and why I should be compelled to relate to them.

There was a time that I read nothing but murder mysteries, and at that point of my life, Harbor Island would have been a satisfying read, but since my reading journey has become richer and deeper, romance/mysteries are not very fulfilling. I realize that I am no longer a good judge of this style of novel. So, take this blog posting with a grain of salt, because who am I to quibble with Carla Negger's success. 

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