Shadowed by Karen E. Olson


by Karen E. Olson
Series:Nicole Jones, #2

Hardcover, 220 pg.
Severn House Publishers, 2016

Read: August 19 – 20, 2016

When we last saw Nicole Jones, she was running away from the new life she’d built for herself — the job, home, friends — rattled by the presence of the FBI and the criminals from her past. The idyll was gone, and her life and freedom depended on her making a break for it. So, she headed for the border and the Great White North beyond.

She tried to convince herself that her next home, next identity, would be as long-lasting (at least) as her previous. But she knew better, deep down — and the readers did, too. Not just because it’s a sequel, but now that everyone knows that she’s out there, they’ll look harder. So Nicole has to be ready to run again, and she does so when the time is right. Which leads her to new risks and dangers, as well as to a greater understanding of what happened in her early criminal career to set her on this path.

There were a couple of times I thought Nicole was too trusting, too willing to not be suspicious. She really made some bad moves there. But honestly, I’m not sure she was in a position to do much else. Shadowed was, on the whole, a lot less realistic-feeling than Hidden, but oh well — it may not have been full of verisimilitude, but it followed the rules that Olson laid out before, and it was entertaining enough that you got over that.

I saw a few of the twists coming (or at least something that looked like them), and by a certain point I had 97.3% of the rest of the book worked out to an uncanny accuracy. That other 2.7? Totally blindsided me. More importantly — the stuff that I’d guessed, the stuff that I hadn’t (and couldn’t), and everything else was written in an engaging, entertaining and controlled fashion. I’ve read too many crime novels lately that seemed chaotic from time to time, where things happen because the author wanted them to, whether or not it fit the story — this one wasn’t anything like that. Olson knows what she’s doing, and you can tell that throughout.

This didn’t wow me the way that Hidden did, but I liked the world — I still really like Nicole — it hooked me almost from the get-go, and definitely left me wanting to know what’s next. Olson continues to impress and satisfy.


3 Stars

Hidden by Karen E. Olson


by Karen E. Olson
Series: Nicole Jones, #1

Hardcover, 220 pg.
Severn House Publishers, 2015

Read: January 9 – 11, 2016
Nicole Jones, née she-ain’t-tellin’-you, is a fixture on Block Island — especially during tourist season, she’s all over the island, leading bike tours. When she’s not doing that she’s painting (again, mostly for the tourists), or hanging out with some of her friends, relaxing and having a couple of beers. She’s serious, she’s responsible, she’s down-to-earth — the kind of person you want as a neighbor, maybe even as a friend.

She’s apparently pretty cagey about her past, letting her friends make some unfounded guesses about it, rather than just tell them anything. But she’s pretty honest as a narrator — she’s lived on Block Island for about 15 years with no problem,and she’s not looking to make any changes. Nicole lets us know right up front that there’s something dark and possibly shady, maybe even dangerous in her past, but that’s behind her, another life.

And then she sees someone she recognizes. Not a local, not a tourist. Someone from before, and that just can’t be good.

I’m sure you’ve heard the quip, “You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.” This may be true — but it sure feels like it. It doesn’t take long before Nicole is looking over her shoulder all the time, before she’s wondering about every phone call, every sound on the street behind her, every face she doesn’t instantly recognize. And Olson drags the reader into that same frame of mind, probably not to the extent as Nicole, but the same idea. The more worried, the more scared, the more freaked out Nicole is? The more the reader is.

As Nicole is forced to confront the things she ran away from, she starts to tell the reader about it, so that by the end of the book, we have a pretty good idea what exactly she did to make her leave it all and become Nicole. It’s a nice counter-balance — as the tension mounts, more is revealed (which sometimes, makes things worse, I grant you). I didn’t lose sleep over this one, but I sure postponed it as long as possible, I didn’t want to put this down until Nicole was safe.

I thoroughly enjoyed Olson’s Annie Seymour books, and my wife insists to this day that I missed out by not reading her Tattoo Shop mysteries (she’s probably right), with Hidden she’s doing something new. This doesn’t feel anything like the Seymour books did, or the others looked — nothing against those, but she kicked it into a new gear here. I’d have been perfectly willing to read more in that other gear (and would be in the future), but wow, am I glad she found this one. I’m counting the days until the sequel.


3.5 Stars