Harper, Julia*. Hot (2008). 380 Pages. Grand Central. $6.99
Have you ever made the mistake of starting a brand new book right before bed, only to realize as you close the book that you’ve been reading all night, and the sun is rising? Harper’s book grabs you from the first line. “In Turner Hastings’ opinion, the bank robbery didn’t go truly bad until Yoda shot out the skylight.” From the dramatic first line until you close the book, you’ll be hooked.
When Special Agent John MacKinnon gets called in to investigate a bank robbery in small-town Winosha, Wisconsin, he expects an open-and-shut case. It isn’t until he stumbles across footage of bank-teller and local librarian Turner Hastings ripping off her boss’s safety deposit box and smirking at the camera that he realizes there is more going on than meets the eye. He finds himself intrigued by the woman, and growing more enthralled by her with each passing day.
Having secured the contents of the bank president’s safety deposit box and fled, Turner begins the cat-and-mouse game which is the backbone of the story. She is not an experienced criminal though, so when her phone rings, she answers it and finds herself talking to MacKinnon. At first, he is professional, trying to capture his quarry by convincing her to come in, but slowly their conversations become more personal. He teases Turner’s story out of her; she’s seeking revenge for the framing of her late Uncle Rusty, and needs evidence to prove her case.
When a hit-man is hired to get rid of Turner, MacKinnon finds himself wanting to protect her more than he wants to arrest her, which makes the whole situation more difficult for him. The two grow closer and closer to each other, until the story climaxes with a few climaxes.
The writing is top-notch. I didn’t roll my eyes over stupidity (very often), or plot holes, or badly used adjectives. The mystery is more of a cat-and-mouse or keystone cops thing, maybe a bit of both combined. There are of course a few sex scenes, this is a romance, and this isn’t a prudish publisher. They’re very detailed, perhaps a little too detailed. The biggest issue is with the scenes with the escaping robbers- they’re a bit too stupid, and while they’re meant to be funny, they’re really not necessary to the story. You can skip the chapters without missing anything at all.
The characters are human; John and Turner both have their pasts, and they’ve got their futures. They develop through the book, and really learn to step outside their respective boxes. Other characters grow less, but that’s not always a bad thing. If every character is growing, the book can be overwhelming. (Anyone who’s ever read the Kushiel series knows how overwhelming too much character development can be.)
The Quick Version:
The funny parts are genuinely funny, the chase scenes enthralling, the characters actually develop and are slowly revealed. The dialog is brilliant, and as a whole, this book is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It gets a 5 out of 5.
*Julia Harper is a nom de plume** for Elizabeth Hoyt.
** I think it’s silly to have multiple pen-names*** just because you’re genre-crossing. I realize that authors can feel constrained by a genre, but they should be able to branch out without using a whole new name
*** And what is the point in having multiple pseudonyms for different genres if you link to them on your authorial website? I mean, really.
If you haven’t noticed, I do enjoy footnotes. I just wish I could anchor them properly.