Running Scared - Elizabeth Lowell

So Shane Tannahill and Risa Sheridan were introduced in enough detail from the first book in this series, Moving Target, for us to get a pretty good idea about what type of characters they’ll be. Not that I don’t appreciate subtle introductions from one book to another within a series, but there were just some things in the first book that I thought were unnecessary to the book’s plot.

Fortunately for Running Scared we don’t have much unnecessary tangential characters taking up space (although Ian Lapstrake has a strong enough presence for me to wonder about him for the next book, he was significant enough to the plot that it didn’t bother me). Unfortunately for this second book, there was a lot of meandering from plot point to plot point, and character to character, that it took some effort to keep all the plot points and character lines connected properly.

Risa Sheridan is an expert on gold artifacts, working for Shane Tannahill as his personal curator. Shane is the “Golden Boy”, a man who owns a steadily profitable casino and has a soft spot for rare and extraordinary gold pieces, specifically those with great historical value. And, of course, like all romances, the two of them are lusting after each other like crazy (but that’s both an understatement and an obvious plot point that didn’t need to be pointed out). And we also get the obligatory “tragic personal histories” to make life more interesting.

The cast of characters in this story was so plentiful that I stopped caring on multiple occasions about what was going on within this book. My mind played a zig-zag game of “Ooh, this is getting interesting!” to “Hmmm… I don’t really care about you.” I might have been only slightly bemused.

Cherelle Faulkner is Risa’s childhood friend who runs a channeling scam with her boy toy, Tim Seton. The two of them come upon a load of priceless Druidic gold worth over millions and so move on to figure out how to turn their wealth around (at least Cherelle tries to turn her life around with this jackpot while Timmy tags along). A man named Socks joins their little duet because he’s a friend of Tim’s during their prison days. And so off the three of them go to Vegas to find out how best to make the most out of their treasure. All the while Cherelle is stuck in a perpetual envious mindset against her childhood friend for having a more successful life, as well as hanging onto that “I saved her life when she was fifteen so I’m going to squeeze this IOU out for all it’s worth and then some even if it gets her killed” with Risa.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Gail Silverado (like the truck, I guess?) and several other casino Big Dogs in Vegas (lots of names, running out of care) band together to take down the Golden Boy because, unlike them, Shane Tannahill doesn’t play dirty with his casino business, erego, making the rest of the crew look bad. And what grates at their egos the most is that Tannahill Inc. seems to be making plenty more monies than everyone else in town without having to resort to laundering dirty stuff through mobs, gangs, black markets… the like.

And then by the end we’ve got the inclusion of Uncle Sam’s “Alphabet Soup” agencies as well as some international politics going on to squeeze out the rest of the story.

Of course, in the middle of all of this chaos are Risa, Shane, and select few Rarities Unlimited staff members.

Somehow, all of this manages to come together as the story meanders around from one character to another and to another, while also managing to include random side tangents featuring one of the male Donavan twins (from the previous series, Donavans), neither of whom made it into their own books, so now must occupy random space in this series. Again, I’m delighted about the references to the previous series, as I feel I like it more so than this one, but really… is it necessary?

Another random side tangent has to do with good ol’ Timmy Seton and some sort of birth secret that sort of played a significant part of the story’s conclusion in Running Scared... but sort of didn’t. I’m still scratching my head on that one, because I guessed it, but can’t decide if I cared enough to care.

Moving along.

Basically this story was all over the place. It was still enjoyable, but with multiple reserves.

And I’m going to be frank. At this point, even if I’m not completely satisfied with any of the six books I’ve read from Elizabeth Lowell so far, for some reason I am utterly drawn to her work. It’s got to be the writing, the witty dialogue, or the characters… or all three. Maybe its even the historical data and interesting information she presents with precious gems, priceless artworks, and things of the like. I’m certainly enjoying the history lessons as well as random facts about the base precious items of each book.

It’s definitely not really the storytelling or the entire stories on their own merits. While some parts have ample amounts of suspense and thrill and other parts have enough intrigue and to hook my interest, the main storylines aren’t exactly outlined in the best way. Some of the books have been great from beginning to end with a few hitches… some just didn’t do too well in the story progression. The premises are great since they’re what’s attracting my attention in the first place. But I can’t help but wish there was a bit more oomph to the actual story versus the plot ideas.

So no matter how badly the stories are turning out (monotonous, meandering, haphazard, good, fine, put together, suspenseful, fun, or select few of these traits or all of the above), I’m still finding these books all enjoyable and interesting.

Fortunately for Running Scared, the characters are well developed and interesting and I liked them a lot. Shane and Risa are definitely an interesting pair, which I’m relieved about since the Erik/Serena couple from Moving Target gave me pause.

It’s hit or miss with these characters in an Elizabeth Lowell book; I either really like them a lot, or I think they’re too flat and require more personality or something, or that their personalities aren’t presented with the most impact despite how great they sound on paper.

Oh, also as a postscript aside:

There were paranormal aspects in this book. There is no explanation as to why there are paranormal aspects or why only certain people are influenced by this paranormal aspect. It just kind of shows up at random through this book, such as in Cherelle’s channeling abilities that are shown at the beginning of the book and then just disappears, mentioned in passing once or twice as if it were just another personal trait of hers, part of a background check.

For all the significance these paranormal elements are lending the storyline, I’m drawing a big ol’ question mark as to why they’re even present in the first place aside from propelling certain plot points as a deus ex machina or something like that.