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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers

Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery
Length: Full Length (331 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

When Emma Sharpe is summoned to a convent on the Maine coast, it's partly for her art crimes work with the FBI, partly because of her past with the religious order. At issue is a mysterious painting depicting scenes of Irish lore and Viking legends, and her family's connection to the work. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.

Colin Donovan is one of the FBI's most valuable assets—a deep–cover agent who prefers to go it alone. He's back home in Maine after wrapping up his latest mission, but his friend Father Bracken presents him with an intrigue of murder, international art heists and a convent's long–held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As the danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—the very intriguing Emma Sharp is at the center of it all.

A ruthless killer has Emma and Colin in the crosshairs, plunging them into a race against time and drawing them deeper into a twisted legacy of betrayal and deceit.

While “Trust your faith. Let it guide you to act with strength, courage, and compassion” is good advice; it is not always easy to follow with a killer invades one’s life, whether one is a nun, an FBI agent, or a priest.

Emma Sharpe is an FBI agent and highly valued for her expertise in the field of art crime. For three years she’d been a part of the Sisters of the Joyful Heart convent, but left before taking final vows.

The international, multimillion dollar art crime operations are often linked with gun trafficking, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, fraud, extortion, and even terrorism. Emma is analytical and brings a unique perception to her work. While she can shoot straight and fight when needed, she is by nature thoughtful, reflective, contemplative, and prayerful. She needs her space at times to function at her best.

When her friend Sister Joan asks for help on a matter at the convent, Emma goes and finds herself entangled in murder and theft. Events that happened long ago that may involve Emma’s family as well as the convent and artists, long-dead, may be the cause of the upheaval at the convent.

Colin Donovan, trying to recharge after a long undercover assignment as a FBI ghost agent, is a “Lone Ranger” type who likes his space. But, at the request of his friend, Father Finian Bracken, Colin gets involved with the convent case. It is on his “old stomping ground”, just a short distance from his hometown. From his marine patrol days along the Maine coast, he is well acquainted with Heron’s Cove and the convent. He and Emma square off at each other for a short time, but soon work together with a little encouragement from Emma’s boss Matt Yankowski, who goes a long way back with Colin.

The tangle of events from Dublin, Ireland to Maine keeps the adrenaline pumping. The many secondary characters and sub-plots help keep tensions high and emotions on full alert. Emma’s grandfather and brother become a part of the tangled web as do the nuns. The flighty young artist Ainsley deAuberville, her deceased father, and her fiancĂ© Gabe Campbell add to the tangled web with their connection to Emma’s family and the convent.

Carla Neggers’ skill in foreshadowing and subtle clue-giving make suspense crackle like distant lightning that announces danger. Her characters come alive with their hang-ups, fears, past histories, and present needs. Father Finian Bracken is a character that intrigues with his connections and wealth in Ireland. The wide variety of characters make Saint's Gate throb with life, mystery, and suspense with humor wrinkled in that makes one smile.

Ms. Neggers weaves bits of Viking lore, religious history, and art crimes into the immediate story of Emma and Colin as they ferret out a murderer and thief from the many possible suspects while they make a life-changing love connection that sizzles. The happy-ever-after is tenuous—not the usual and more a "happy for now", but who knows what the future holds?

Saint's Gate is one for the bookshelf to be enjoyed again.