Apparently I am capable of finishing a book. Who knew?
I originally picked up The Collector by Cameron Cruise because it's set in Orange County, California - currently where I am calling "home." Contrary to popular belief (AKA The Fox Television Network) "The O.C." is not all skinny, rich white kids wearing fabulous duds. It's actually a very ethnically diverse area. Not just people from different cultures, but people who weren't born in the U.S. There's a strong immigrant mentality here. Work hard, grab a piece of the American dream, and give your children a chance at a better life. On that score Cruise succeeds admirably. She does a very good job with the setting. The story - well not so much. But I'm a big enough person to know that my personal preference underpants are showing - so you be the judge.
A Vietnamese psychic turns up dead in her home in Little Saigon in Westminster, California. The scene is a blood bath - the victim's eyes have been cut out (ewwww!) and the killer drew pictures on the wall with her blood. However the corker is the severed head of the victim's pet bird shoved in her mouth. So yeah, the crimes are a touch grisly. In walk the lead detectives, Stephen "Seven" Bushard and Erika Cabral. They soon discover a rare "bead" at the crime scene. The kind of bead that would have been taken from a necklace. Turns out that necklace has a long history - one wrapped up in immortality and ancient civilizations.
Enter local artist Gia Moon. Gia is a psychic and is getting disturbing visions about the crime. She goes to the precinct only to have Seven and Erika treat her like a looney toon. Naturally more stuff happens, Seven finds himself attracted to Gia - blah, blah, blah.
Most of this story works, unfortunately the author tends to focus the story on the stuff that doesn't. Namely Gia. She is by far the least interesting woman in this story, and for a long time she is off-stage. She doesn't play a significant role until the last 100 pages or so, which is a problem since I think I'm supposed to care about her. Erika is the show here. She's smart, sexy and a straight shooter. Her only vice is that she seems to go for one-night stands. She likes sex, but doesn't want the commitment. The last thing she wants is a "needy man." She knows her behavior is wrapped up in her relationship with her father, but she's smart enough to say, "Well f*ck it."
This is the woman I want to read about. Not some lame-o psychic who isn't telling the hero, Seven, the whole story. Is it because I was officially "over" psychic heroines about 5 years? Maybe. But the fact is that Gia just pales in comparison and not enough is devoted to her to make me change my mind.
Seven is very interesting. His older brother was the "Golden Boy" in the family. Beautiful wife, loving son, a seemingly thriving plastic surgery practice. One small problem though - he's gay and having an affair with his male nurse. One thing leads to another and ultimately the nurse ends up dead and Golden Boy goes to jail. Seven is left to pick up the pieces.
There's a lot of stuff going on among the characters' lives that isn't wrapped up neatly. Does Seven's sister-in-law climb out of the bottle? Does Erika give her last one-night stand a chance at really getting to know her? Do Seven and Gia hook up or are they too damaged by the events of the story? Will Seven and Erika's partnership survive? Who knows? It's all left hanging a bit. The start of a series, perhaps?
The suspense thread is decent, but only if you're looking for the type of story where the reader knows all the details before the characters. The selling point on the story seems to be the paranormal, ancient Greece and psychic "stuff" - and speaking for myself here - that's just not enough anymore. Sure I loved the setting, and I adored Seven and Erika - but on the other hand we have a tendency to info-dump and Gia. Basically I was rewriting this book in my head as I was reading it.
But most of this falls under personal preference. I'm sure there are readers who will be fine with Gia. Readers who aren't burnt out on psychic heroines. As for how to classify this story? That's the tricky part. Mira simply labeled this a "novel" and I'd be very hard pressed to call it romantic suspense since we don't get much resolution to the Gia/Seven relationship. It's more like a suspense novel with some paranormal stuff tossed in. This seems the most likely given the cover quote provided by John Lescroart. Not a name that leaps to mind when you want a quote for anything labeled romantic.
Final Verdict = The setting is great and I hope Cruise continues to mine Orange County. Also, I liked some of the characters quite a bit. Now if we could just get past this paranormal trend. Final Grade = C+