Monday, August 22, 2011

LAST BREATH by Mariah Stewart

Publisher: Ballantine
Date published: July 31, 2010
ISBN 978-0345492241
Mass Market Paperback
Reviewed by Gina
Obtained by publisher

Called away from a dig for the opportunity of a lifetime, Dr. Daria McGowan returns to her family’s collegiate roots. With her great grandfather’s find of the long thought mythical city of Shandihar, early on there had been plans to display the artifacts at the Howe College. When she arrives in Howeville, memories of childhood visits assail her. Familiar and at the same time excitingly new. When Daria meets with college president, Louise Burnette, she learns what kind of project she has been offered—the chance to not only display her great-grandfather’s find, but to update and design the museum setting it will be in. When she digs into the project she quickly finds several pieces are missing. Yet how? The boxes are all sealed exactly the way her great-grandfather had left them. Rather than call the local police to investigate the theft, she calls Connor Shields, a man she met and never forgot.

The Shields’ family’s personal man-of-mystery, Connor Shields pops into town now and again. He works for John Mancinni and his special unit, but no one, not even his FBI family members, have any idea exactly what it is he does. With no time or inclination to find a special woman, Connor found himself surprised when he first meets Daria. When she calls him for help locating the stolen artifacts, he immediately puts himself on the case. Oh, he suggests bringing in the FBI’s stolen art specialists, but he isn’t about to miss the chance to see and spend some time, with a woman he found utterly fascinating.

When Daria and Connor team up they begin to unravel what might have happened to the ancient treasures. But at each stop along the way, another body is found or a murder committed in the same fashion the ancient people of Shandihar punished their criminals. The deeper Daria digs into the mystery of the missing artifacts, the closer she comes to her own horrific demise.

After the build up of who and what Connor does, through several of the Shield family books in Mariah Stewart’s FBI series, I have to say I was disappointed in LAST BREATH. As with her prior hardback debut, it felt like something was missing. I don’t know if it stems from perhaps being limited to less than 300 pages for the hardback, whether it was time for Connor’s story and she hadn’t made decisions about the character or if it is something else. The story just lacks emotion and suspense. I had a hard time classifying it because while it deals with ritualistic murders, it wasn’t all that suspenseful. There is one sex scene that wasn’t particularly romantic so it wasn’t a romantic suspense. And the brutal, ritualistic murders took it out of the realm of a cozy mystery. At the end, we still know little or nothing about Connor. There is a sense of being left dangling and with no more books in this trilogy of the series I hope there is some closure in the upcoming Mercy series.

That said, there are some wonderful segments that delve into the mindset of archeologists, collectors and the ins and outs of museums. I adored SWEET THING (you will have to read the book to learn who Sweet Thing is).

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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