Thursday, January 19, 2012

Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz

Abby Radwell is a rare book dealer with an unusual talent- she can "read" the paranormal nature of books and decode any sort of paranormal code concealed within the pages and printing of the book to reveal the truth of the words beneath. Handling this energy isn't easy-in fact, Abby struggled with not being understood all of her life from her own family, and was accused of being crazy and starting fires, so she lives mostly estranged from her family, her famous psychologist father and his seemingly perfect blended family of her stepmother, her stepbrother and two half-siblings that are the product of her father's second marriage.

But when Abby is forced to use the psychic power inherent in a book with a special paranormal code to overcome a young man who threatened her unless she deciphered the code for him, this reclusive book dealer suddenly finds her name, and her talents, being known all over, something that makes her profoundly uncomfortable. She also has the feeling of being watched, and clients are suddenly trying to contact her, asking her to procure a certain rare volume that will be coming up for auction on the rare book market. All the attention makes her even more uncomfortable, so she asks a friend who is also a rare book dealer and has some of the same types of talents she does, for help.

He suggests going to Sam Coppersmith- a man whose family is rich, but made their riches through mining and the discovery and acquisition of rare stones. Sam has a talent of his own- he can read certain kinds of "hot rocks" and makes his living working R&D for his father's mining company- also researching the "hot rocks" and manipulating their energy for various ends. He is not the only one in his family with this talent, but his seems the strongest by far, and his powers may have risen out of an encounter his father once had with some strange extremely psychoactive rocks that he and his partners found in the desert.

The rocks were so strange and powerful that they were too powerful, and altogether too easy to abuse. Two of the three partners agreed to bury most of the rocks they had found and to stop digging for them until they better understood what they were dealing with, but the third partner didn't agree, and the three men came to blows and which ended with an explosion. However, after the third partner was dead, they discovered that he had kept his own notebooks on what they had found, and that one of the notebooks was missing, perhaps taken by his lover, who could not be found.

Now, it seems that someone has found that notebook and put it up for sale on the rare books market, and very many rare book collectors are interested in it. Sam's father asks him to try and buy the notebook before anyone else can get their hands on it. But to do that, Sam needs the help and assistance of a rare book dealer like Abby- someone who can understand why such a book shouldn't be released to someone who can't understand why such a thing should be kept secret, and who doesn't understand the risks involved with the "Hot rocks".

But he also has a tragedy in his past. Sam was involved with a woman, a woman who was just as interested in hot rocks as he was. But when she was at his family's island, Copper Beach, she somehow came to a bad end, dying just outside Sam's personal lab in the cellars beneath the house. Since Sam was the one who came home after working a job for a secret government agency, and found her, he was considered the prime suspect in her death. While none of the Copper Beach locals believe that Sam was responsible (if he really wanted her dead, she would just have disappeared and never been found), he was in the papers as being the prime suspect. But no murderer was ever found.

He finds in Abby a kindred spirit- someone who can reach out and touch supernatural powers that no one else seems to believe exist. But Abby's family is putting pressure on her- to be the "perfect child" her father's new book assures his readers can exist, despite Abby being the black sheep of her family for her powers. After a mishap when she was just a child, her family considered her "troubled" and had her sent to a home for troubled youths- one that so traumatized her that the things she experienced there still affect her to this day, strongly.

When someone breaks into her home and messes with all of her possessions, she can no longer even stand to touch them- a legacy of her time at the school. But when her stepgrandmother realizes that Abby is the only one who can prevent the disgrace of her stepbrother and save their family's fortune, she will do anything, and threaten anything to get Abby to agree to get the book for her stepbrother's client to save him. And this client will do anything to get Abby to agree, from threaten her brother's job to kidnapping and murder.

But as Sam and Abby find themselves powerfully attracted to each other and begin a relationship together, can it survive the stresses of both their families insistence on being the one to attain the book? And can Abby discover the traitor at Sam's company and the one who murdered his girlfriend, and possibly save a man who was tricked into attacking her, with Sam's help? And will Sam be able to keep the secret of the psychoactive rocks from everyone outside his own family, and make Abby realize that what they have is special and that they should stay together? Or will the competing forces pull them apart before they even have a chance to explore what they have together?

This is a new series for Jayne Ann Krentz, known as the "Dark Legacy" series. The cover is a little misleading, saying it was a "a Dark Legacy volume" and making me think that I had somehow missed a series in the past- but no, this is the first one. And for those who have read her Arcane Society novels, this series is going to seem awfully familliar, like an Arcane Society novel with the serial numbers filed off. In other words, it takes place in the same world, but the characters have never heard of the Arcane Society or the Arcane family- or, indeed, any other bunch of highly powerful psychic talents. Since the Arcane Society novels seem to give the impression that the Arcane family and Society are literally everywhere, I had a hard time believing that neither character had ever met someone with powers known to the Arcane Society- and vice versa.

Aside from that, though, this reminded me of all the Arcane Society novels- people who are outcast because of their abilities find each other, and find that since both have powers, they are able to understand each other better than the non-powered. Only in this case, the characters are not virtual outcasts from the society because of their overly strong (or the overly misunderstood nature of those powers), but outcast because they have powers that "normal" people don't have at all. It's almost same old-same old with a slightly different twist. And since Sam's brother and sister are also known to have powers, I can guess that further volumes in the series will involve them (which would fit with the "Dark Legacy" title, Sam's powers being the legacy of the psychic explosion experienced by Sam's father and his partner (His partner only seems to have had one crazy kid, so while I don't discount other characters showing up from those lines, it's going to be a lot harder to justify characters like that in the series.

The other thing I wonder is if Ms. Krentz will be able to resist crossing over the two series at some point. After all, they take place in the same world/universe, and in the same general area, so it's sure to be a temptation for her at some point in the series. At least this one won't be travelling to her other pen names, remaining firmly rooted in the here and now.

I did like this book. It may be the Arcane Society with the serial numbers filed off, but the situations and characters are strong and gripping, and I enjoyed it immensely while I was reading it. Ms. Krentz's ability to make strong characters that you enjoy reading about, whether main characters, secondary characters or those merely in the background, is what makes this series such a joy to read. Highly recommended, especially if you have enjoyed the Arcane Society books. More of the same, when it's as enjoyable as this, is never a bad thing.

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