***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***
Hannah Brewster, an artist and former member of the Quinton Zane cult, throws herself off a cliff after destroying her latest painting. But before burning down her cabin and jumping to her death, she takes a photo of her last creation and mails it to one of the survivors of the "end" of the Zane cult, art gallery owner, Virginia Troy.
Virginia knows there's more to Hannah's death than the suicide everybody else is buying, so she enlists the help of Anson Salinas, the man who saved her and seven other children from the fire Zane had started all those years ago. Salinas has recently opened an investigative agency, along his three foster sons, all three saved from the same fire, and Cabot Sutter immediately recognizes Virginia, and agrees to help in her investigation.
Cabot and Virginia quickly realize they're on the right path, as bodies start piling up, but little do they suspect their poking into the past will soon make a demon from their joint, fiery past rear his dark head.
It was still as complicated and convoluted as its predecessor, but the mystery was much tighter and intriguing, keeping me entertained and guessing despite all the villains, motives, motivations, and sub-plots.
This one also took its sweet time before it started going, but the pace wasn't as slow to begin with, and once the mystery kicked in and later started to unravel, the pace was suitably heightened.
Unfortunately, the many slow spots in between, exposition scenes, inner monologues, anxiety attacks etc., made the story flow rather "hiccup-y"; the constant start-stop-start-stop of the story jarring.
The characters had also much to be desired. Bland, template-y, carbon copies of previous character by the same author, and despite Ms Krentz obvious attempts at adding layers and depths, rather one-dimensional and dull.
The hero didn't appear to have much of a personality, while the heroine "quirks" were rather incongruous with what she's been through (how can someone who survived a fire when she was nine end up having intimacy issues is still beyond me). Neither hero nor heroine had any really appealing character traits to get them to stay in the reader's memory beyond the end of the book, and their romance was a real stretch to believe.
Sometimes a story it so intriguing, so realistic, it makes the reader think it could easily happen in real life, then there are those that by character action and/or plot elements and story scream "fiction" and this one was one of the latter. Everything was just a tad too bland or that little bit over the top (the whole hiding of the money from the monster, for example) to make it unrealistic and implausible, straight-up fiction.
Still, the mystery was intriguing, but the story could've used some heavy editing to get rid of some unnecessary scenes, especially those after the end, where the scene with the reveal about the major player from the past would've sufficed.