There is a lyric running through my head: “Tell me a story, tell me a story.” The writer who is answering to this song is, of course, Nora Roberts --- with her 200th work of fiction, THE WITNESS. A born storyteller, Roberts has kept me reading since her first book, IRISH THOROUGHBRED, was published. True to form, her latest is a marvelous novel of romance, suspense and hope with a riveting storyline.
"...a marvelous novel of romance, suspense and hope with a riveting storyline.... Whether it is her first novel or her 200th, Nora Roberts is a writer who never fails to deliver a book that readers enjoy."
We first meet heroine Elizabeth Fitch as a 17-year-old, living at home with her distant and cold mother. She has led a disciplined and ordered existence, abiding by a set of rules, expectations and demands for excellence in all endeavors. Though her mother plans for her to become a doctor, Elizabeth yearns for a normal teenage life full of friends, fashion and fast food. When her mother fills in for another doctor at a conference and does not even say goodbye to her, it is the last straw for this teenage prodigy.
Elizabeth decides to break free, which begins with cutting her hair. She now not only feels different, she looks different. Next, she heads to the mall to get her ears pierced and buy make-up. While there, she meets Julie, who she knows from school, and the two become shopping buddies. Elizabeth is further transformed with new clothes and a new hair color, and starts calling herself Liz. Liz creates new IDs for Julie and herself so they can get into a club. Unfortunately, the girls become entangled with members of the Russian mob. Julie is dead, and Elizabeth’s life is in danger.
Twelve years have passed living in hiding. Elizabeth is now known as Abigail Lowery and lives in Bickford, Arkansas. She is a reclusive but dedicated freelance programmer whose work requires her to be knowledgeable about sophisticated security systems. It is a career that she has wanted since her teenage years. Her company is run with an expertise and skill driven by her need for survival and a keen intelligence. It also allows her to keep track of the Russian mobsters who have not forgotten what she witnessed so many years ago.
The last thing Abigail expects to find at the local market is Brooks Gleason, who came home when his dad had a heart attack and stayed on to become the Chief of Police. Bickford is a town whose inhabitants may not always uphold the law, in particular Justin, the son of one of the wealthiest families. When Justin and his friends trash the local inn, Brooks is called in to sort it all out and quickly finds himself involved with a father who will try to buy his son out of any problem. Brooks will not be intimidated. When Justin is out on bail, he and one of his friends attempt to vandalize the Police Chief’s car while Brooks is at Abigail’s house. This act of violence causes Abigail to reveal her past to Brooks, and together they begin looking for a way to find justice for her. This leads to a surprising sequence of events that will keep readers turning the pages as quickly as they can to find out what happens.
Whether it is her first novel or her 200th, Nora Roberts is a writer who never fails to deliver a book that readers enjoy. Her characters always make you feel like you might wish to know them, her settings become part of the story, and the action and pacing keep you reading right to the end. The hero and heroine find a home with each other, while readers find a sense of belonging for themselves in her books. Why? Her stories offer hope, love and faith in the human spirit, regardless of time and place.
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on April 19, 2012