Note: This is a late review from my 2010 book log, posting as I’m trying to get caught up. The 2011 book log will commence once the 2010 reviews are up to date!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The third of Elizabeth Lowell’s Donovan books, Pearl Cove, is perhaps one of the earliest Lowells that levels up a bit for me in general quality of plot and character development. It’s still formulaic–I haven’t met a Lowell suspense novel that isn’t, even if it’s a formula I happen to enjoy. But this one at least does a better job than others.
This time around we have the focus on Archer Donovan, the oldest of the Donovan brothers and the one who’s generally in charge of everything the younger generation of the family does. He’s a former international operative, with the obligatory unspecific hints about Awful Things He Did When He Was Younger, and he’s got the suitably jaded outlook on life to go with it. And, unsurprisingly, a portion of his Awful Background(TM) is plot-relevant, for it turns out he’s got sordid backstory with his illegitimate half-brother–a bitter, crippled man named Len McGarry. Who, it turns out, has just died under mysterious circumstances. And Archer learns this from Len’s widow Hannah–who, it turns out, is the obligatory Only Woman Archer Has Ever Loved(TM).
Naturally, Archer must hightail it down to Australia to help Hannah find out who murdered her husband, and what happened to the priceless necklace of black pearls he’d been assembling.
I quite enjoyed the “solve the murder mystery” aspect of this story, and the chemistry between Archer and Hannah was suitably edgy and compelling, even given the gyrations Hannah’s backstory goes through to get her into a position of being a widow yet still more or less sexually innocent. The only part of their interaction I didn’t enjoy was the Big Misunderstanding trope rearing its head, since a good chunk of Hannah’s early interactions with Archer are her assuming that he’s just as much of an asshole as her dead husband was, without any particular justification at all. Once they get past the Big Misunderstanding, though, it’s fun to see the Donovans reacting to their brother finally being in love, and all of them coming together to help him and Hannah ultimately solve the crime. Three stars.