Come Sundown by Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense Novel, 2017)
One of the best-selling and most prolific authors around, Nora Roberts often puts out books with multiple genre appeal. In this case, you have a novel to appeal to fans of romance, suspense and crime (if not exactly mystery) fiction. Plus it’s set in the Big Sky country of the American West. And yes, horse lovers of all stripes will be enamored by all the equine action here, and especially by a certain four-legged charmer who emerges as one of the most interesting supporting characters.
Bodine Longbow is an impressive young woman from an impressive clan of ranchers in western Montana. She runs a western-themed resort that’s now far more than the mere dude ranch it started out as. It’s an offshoot from her family’s still-working ranch.
Callen Skinner was her oldest brother’s best friend and almost one of the family. She had a girlish crush on him until he left for California, where he worked as an animal handler/trainer for the film industry. Now he’s returned, to work on the ranch (and soon the resort as well), and in the process stirring up some very adult feelings Bodine is reluctant to pursue.
But Callen’s return also seems to mark the outbreak of a series of shocking acts of violence against various young women nearby. An old, bullying enemy of his is now a deputy sheriff and decides (on zero evidence) that Cal is the killer and begins harassing him. How far will this thug with a badge take his mindlessly vindictive crusade?
None of them realize it, but these savage assaults are related to the unknown fate of Bo’s long-missing aunt. Unlike the book’s main characters, the reader already knows some of that, courtesy flashback chapters (starting with Alice’s brutal abduction in 1991). Roberts allows that part of the story to unfold gradually, revealing detail after detail without giving everything away too quickly. It is obvious that the parallel storylines will intersect eventually, however–although certain key facts are left murky, in one case till very near the violent climax. I will say that the final reveal (of one of the two crazed threats) didn’t entirely surprise me, but was on-the-whole nonetheless satisfying.
The above is why I’d call this a novel of crime fiction (as well as romantic suspense, etc.) rather than a mystery in the classic whodunit sense. You still get plenty of thrills, mixed well with uncertain but blossoming romance elements, a charming extended family, other quirky characters, and all manner of local color.
It’s quite a nice, rich stew of varied ingredients that the author has cooked up for us this time–among her best work, I’d say. And that, in itself, is saying quite a lot.