To be brief, The Color of Death was not a terrible book--it just also wasn’t a very focused book. At least not until somewhere in the middle did the main conflict stop meandering in and out. I had trouble concentrating for the first half of this book because there seemed to be too much going on despite how seemingly straight-tracked the story progression was. Sure, everything tied together properly, and the suspense and murder mystery was a sure-in from the get-go.
But the different scenes and the different events just felt all-around distracting.
And on top of that, I’m not sure this is Elizabeth Lowell’s best work--not that any of her Rarities Unlimited books have struck me as being all that great to begin with. Now, the previous series, Donovans had drawn my attention, but this is not the place to fawn all over that one.
The Color of Death was a fairly straight forward murder mystery with a little conspiracy on the the side. While there was a lot of politicking and a lot of characters I could care less about, in comparison to the rest of the series, The Color of Death was actually quite to the point. Now, in contrast to the rest of the series, however, I’m not certain I see the connection between this book and the others since the infamous “Rarities Unlimited” company was not present at any point in this book at all--not even a shadow of anyone from previous books appeared.
The Color of Death could just as well have been a stand alone and would have been fine (as fine as it managed to be).
Kate Chandler is personally investigating the disappearance of her half-brother, Lee Mandel, whose case has been blown off as a greedy courier who simply took off with the goods and is now in hiding. Kate believes otherwise and is even fearful that Lee may already be dead and the seven exquisite sapphire pieces he was delivering are now gone.
Sam Groves is an FBI agent who (gasp, surprise, surprise) doesn’t like to follow orders and doesn’t bother to be a team player (there’s always one of them). So he’s on the bad side of his supervisors and when he stumbles across Kate and her ideas that her brother’s case is more than the local authorities will give her the time of day for, his reputation among the higher ups doesn’t get any better.
On top of that, we are in the middle of investigating a string of courier hits wherein precious, priceless items are being stolen. And while this investigation continues on, there are pissing contests between security agencies, courier companies, and the FBI to determine who the culprit is and who’s going to solve this case first.
I’m reminded of a specific piece of dialogue from a book written by one of my other favorite romantic suspense authors. To paraphrase, “these guys are on the same side [...] but they fight about it like dogs trying to decide who’s the alpha.” Everyone is working to solve the same crime and bring down the same criminals, but instead waste more time trying to edge each other out to gain the glory of being “the one who saved the day”, rather than actually getting anything done.
These pissing contests in a lot of romantic suspense novels are amusing until they start getting irritating, really.
I’m not gonna lie. The Color of Death was no different than any standard crime thriller with the addition of sapphire and cutting stone rough as a part of the informational background (the Elizabeth Lowell signature). Otherwise, nothing really outstanding can be said about it. While I prefer to read straight out murder mysteries such as these, this particular book just didn’t hit the right spots.
Of course, when the midpoint came around and we’re finally doing some investigative work worth a damn (whenever these big men start arguing, I’m reminded of little kids pulling on each others hair and stealing each others lollipops), I guess the story managed to pick up and I started enjoying it more without feeling confused, frustrated, or bored. As for the characters… I really could care less about them.
Take it or leave it. This is your standard, typical romantic suspense novel as a murder mystery with the usual tropes. If you love Elizabeth Lowell (yes, that would be me), you’ll read it and be entertained anyway. If you like romantic suspense novels, then this one makes a good rainy-day read. As part of the Rarities Unlimited series, the connection didn’t click and I may have been biased due to confusion. As a stand-alone novel, it actually does quite well for itself as a crime thriller.
If you love Elizabeth Lowell.