"The Unquiet," J.D. Robb et al

Pros: Enjoyable stories of odd happenings
Cons: Some predictableness; due to the length of the stories, some characters lacked depth
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

 

The Unquiet contains five novellas by different authors, all tales of “uncanny suspense and disquieting romance,” as the back of the book says. It includes stories set in the past, present, and future, with notes of horror, tragedy, and humor. The thing that links them all is a sense of something not-quite-right with the world.


 

J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) wrote a story from her “in death” series setting to suit the book. In Chaos in Death, Eve and Roarke investigate a series of deaths among homeless former drug addicts, and their ties to a brilliant doctor and a humanitarian clinic. Soon a description emerges of a killer that looks like a demon and dances with glee after killing. The description is given by reliable witnesses who know how crazy it sounds, however, so Eve can’t just dismiss the idea, however ridiculous.

Robb’s story is fun and enjoyable, if a bit predictable. You’ll quickly figure out what old tale it’s riffing off of, but some of the details remain a mystery until the end.

Mary Blayney writes about a widowed shopkeeper in England, early 1800s. An attacker is determined to obtain Her Greatest Treasure, but the only thing she can think of is an old coin her late husband gave her—something with only sentimental value. A dashing man comes to the woman’s aid, and tries to help her find out what’s going on—while she fights her attraction to him.

Again, this tale is a bit predictable; it takes the main characters a very long time to figure out things that the reader grasps almost immediately. And I’ve never been a huge fan of the Victorian dynamic of virtue to be kept or lost, rakish men to be tamed, and so on (but that’s just me, so you might well enjoy it). That said, it’s still a sweet, romantic tale with a bit of fun suspense.

In Patricia Gaffney’s Dear One, Molly McDougal is trying to stave off the foreclosure of her house—by working as a telephone psychic. She gets to know and love her regulars, and tries to help them with her problems. It doesn’t hurt that she got a touch of real psychic ability from her Aunt Kit. The son of one of her best clients, however, is angry that his father is dumping so much money into something so ridiculous, and calls to tell her so. Through a series of odd events, Molly and Oliver end up hating each other in person. At the same time, he uses a fake name to call in to her psychic line, and the two unwittingly fall for each other over the phone lines.

This is a fun, humorous little tale that I just loved. The characters are trying to do what they feel is right, but the world is imperfect and life isn’t always easy. The end of the tale is beautifully romantic and silly and just totally tickled me.

Ruth Ryan Langan’s entry in this is The Unforgiven: a woman who was betrayed by her husband needs to use the one thing she has left from her marriage to him—his ancestral manor—to support herself. There’s just one problem: it’s haunted by a very old, very angry ghost, who really doesn’t want anyone there. He might just have met his match in Bree, however.

It’s a fun ghost story, entertaining, with a great contest-of-wills between the ghost and the woman who invades ‘his’ space. The usual misunderstanding was something I found a little frustrating, because it required one of the characters to take something at face value that she should have at least wondered about, but at least she didn’t carry it too far. And once again, the ending just melted me.

Finally, Mary Kay McComas’s His Brother’s Keeper. A children’s book author just hasn’t been able to relax lately (and thus, can’t get her work done), and her mother arranges for her to stay at a friend’s “cabin at the lake”—although it’s more like a mansion than a cabin! She finds that the area is oddly familiar, and she’s strangely attracted to her handsome neighbor. Then the odd dreams set in, and she starts to worry that she’s losing her mind.

This one, too, is a bit predictable, but the characters are surprisingly well-developed for a novella, and the set-up is fun.

 

All the flaws in these stories were small ones, and the tales were enjoyable. Overall, I’d definitely recommend The Unquiet.

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