Genre: Suspense; Thriller; Romance
Publication Date: 29 May 2018
“It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tending to customers. Then the shooters arrived.
The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.
But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.”
My Thoughts: I will enjoy a Nora Roberts novel no matter what it is. That being said, Shelter in Place is the latest in a string of novels that seriously ups the ante on her library of work. It is also yet another novel that breaks from her traditional format with a focus that is less on the romance and more on the suspense aspect of the story. I cannot stress how much I love that she is not afraid to shake up her writing and try something new. Her stories have been the better for it.
The other thing I love, something much more obvious in Shelter in Place, is the fact that Ms. Roberts is using hot-button topics within her novels. This one in particular explores the trauma of an active shooter event not just during and immediately after but also more than a decade after the event. In addition, she spares nothing in her details of the event, which may be a trigger for some readers. That in and of itself is another sign that Ms. Roberts broke her story mold because normally her novels are considered escapist reads for most people. The fact that there are going to be plenty of readers who will not be able to move past the scenes in the mall during the shootings makes me believe that Ms. Roberts is, in her own way, speaking out against current political happenings, and I love it.
Pulling everything together are the survivors and first responders of that terrible night. We see how that one event sets in motion the rest of their lives. We see the terrible doubt and guilt that comes with surviving an event when so many others, including best friends, did not. We see career decisions being made based on reactions to that night. We see personalities shift and change. Actually, we do not just see it; we experience everything alongside them. We feel their pain, their depression, their determination, their fear, their hard-won joy. This connection with the characters does not just make Shelter in Place stronger, it raises it to a whole new level.
While Ms. Roberts may have made a name for herself as a romance writer, Shelter in Place shows that she is more than pretty characters and sexy scenes. She can write psychological trauma. She can write hard-hitting scenes that shock and traumatize. She can create memorable characters who are just like you and me. She can combine all of this into a novel which highlights a tragic trend in today’s world and provides a realistic example of what such events do to victims. Shelter in Place is not a typical Nora Roberts novel from several years ago, and I am perfectly okay with that.