The Witness - Nora Roberts I generally like NR's hardback releases and this one was no exception. It was well-paced, the main characters were likable, not a whole lot annoyed me, it's set in a small town, and since NR lives in the area, my home region got a shout out. I got great amusement about them renting a hotel in Tysons' Corner since it was right off the highway (I'm assuming Rte. 7). Yeah, have fun in that construction traffic.

Brooks is the all-around genial good Southern man. Well-mannered, romantic, stubborn, amiable, and intelligent. All good qualities for a romantic hero who is Chief of Police in small-town Arkansas. He quickly becomes protective of Abigail, realizing that there's something very wrong right off the bat. There's not much to say on him because he's not obnoxious, a brute, or somehow blood-related to his romantic interest.

Abigail is a self-reliant heroine, which I enjoy. She's had to be, 12 years on the run with nobody to help her and the threat of being killed always hanging over her head. She rarely commits any stupid actions. The only one I can think of is when she thought to put down roots in NYC. Now, if you're running from the Russian Mafia (or the Italian or Irish mobs, for that matter), NYC is the absolute LAST place you'd want to live. That's their friggin' backyard. Any major city is. So of course she ended up getting spotted and nearly killed by Ilya. Luckily for her, her street smarts start catching up to her book smarts.

Speaking of, Abigail is presented as highly intelligent, but very robotic. She's like an alien from Third Rock from the Sun where she doesn't understand jokes and will start reciting the encyclopedia at any given moment (at one point, she goes on about beer brewing in China when Brooks brings over Chinese food and beer). I understand that her mother was a very cold, unemotional person and there was a fair amount of suppression and repression of emotions while living with her, but to fail understanding basic human interactions?

Speaking of Abigail's mother, I have to wonder about NR's relationship with her mother. Rarely does she present a positive mother/daughter relationship. And not just that, the mother is usually presented as cold, unemotional, bitter, angry, abusive, narcissistic, and/or neglectful. Dr. Susan Fitch is a cold and cruel bitch who is more concerned about Elizabeth/Abigail not completing the assigned summer internship than the fact that her 16-year old daughter is a material witness to two mob-related murders and now has a bounty on her head. The Doctor seems to view her daughter as an experiment in nature vs. nurture and genetic superiority (almost seems like the natural conclusion to Sandra Brown's Thursday's Child where the two romantic leads are to conceive a baby as an experiment. Don't even get me started on the ethics of that one) with a specific life plan that Elizabeth/Abigail is to follow, no questions, opinions, or deviation allowed. No wonder the kid rebelled.

Plotwise, the book was fine there. Except, while I generally don't mind B-plots, I do want them to have some sort of relevance and not essentially be filler. That's what the Justin & Lincoln Blake B-plot ended up being. The way it was going and how it was getting some serious page time, I thought Lincoln Blake was going to end up having some ties with the Russian Mafia, bringing Abigail's past into Bickford, Arkansas. Either that, or the PI Blake hired would somehow uncover who Abigail actually is and Blake would try to lead the Russians to Abigail. Nope. It truly was unrelated to the main storyline and its conclusion ended up being a couple of paragraphs. That storyline could have been eliminated and cut down the book length. Maybe if this weren't a one-shot and there had been a previous book with these characters, then yeah, I wouldn't mind so much because then I'd be like, "Yeah, take down those Blake assholes." As it was, I found myself wondering why I should care about this because I'm more interested in the main plot.

The end of the book was predictable, as it generally is with the romantic genre. The conclusion was logical, considering that once the Mob is after you, there are very few means of escape. What I wonder is, when you've got the Mob or Mafia after you and you have the ability to change your identity thoroughly and are damn good with computers, why not get the hell out of America? It's much harder for them to get you when you're no longer even in the same country.

Good book and I can't wait for the next hardback release.