An online marketing consultant, an avid reader of 400 + books a year. Professional reader, reviewer, and blogger. Enjoy ARCs and new releases.
By: Karen Harper
South Shores #1
Publication Date: 11/29/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
Karen Harper returns following her Cold Creek Series with the introduction of a new series, CHASING SHADOWS (South Shores #1). What shadows are lurking from the past?
Claire Britten is a forensic psychologist living in Naples (South Florida) where she testifies in trials about missing or deceased suspects. When she ruins criminal attorney Nick Markwood’s case, he knows she’s perfect for his secret project to discover and defend dead people and convict those accused of killing them.
Set in Florida, the opening scene is in Naples, Florida with a guilty man going to prison instead of hiding out so he and his family could enjoy a three-million-dollar death settlement.
Claire, a "thirtysomething" single mom struggling with building a career and coping with a dreadful disease, was delighted with this high-profile victory. Her interviews and testimony had made all the difference in the trial.
Her current client, Lifeboat Insurance, small as it was had beaten out the opposing counsel, the large giant law firm of Markwood, Benton, and Chase.
Claire Fowler Britten is a forensic psychologist, which some would call a psychological autopsy—taking apart and studying a person’s life—often their motives and alibi.
She was a struggling one-woman Certified Fraud Examiner and Forensic Psychologist business called Clear Path. A consulting firm. Her ex-husband, Jace provided monthly child support for their daughter, Lexi.
As they were exiting the courtroom, there is a gunshot--Lead attorney for Sorento, Nick Markwood— the tall, fortyish, forceful good-looking man, from the other side now is coming to her aid. A fatal courthouse shooting. A man supposed dead for two years, now out of the grave and into prison for fraud. She had been shot by a killer. Was she the intended target, or just in the way?
Was she going to die along with the other man, Fred Myron? A shooter out for revenge from Sol Sorento’s family? The master murderer Clayton Ames had reeked of deceit and danger for years. Her boss was dead. Who was the intended victim?
Nick had already checked out Claire. He knew where she lived and of her younger sister, Darcy who took care of Clarie’s four- year- old daughter, Lexi. Her ex, Jason “Jace” Britten was an international airline co-pilot living in LA and sometimes Singapore, though he kept an apartment in Naples.
Jace could not understand why Claire insisted on this dangerous line of work. He felt she was just looking for trouble hanging around shady characters, frauds, and liars.
Claire’s illness. She is a narcoleptic. Mild cataplexy. She gets overly tired and has, to take naps and use stimulants like caffeine and chocolate. She has had the disease since the eighth grade, and as a kid, she had terrible nightmares and some thought she was haunted by ghosts. People thought she was lazy and she had her share of bullying.
Nick Marwood, senior partner of the opposing law firm had come to her side. She will be ok and now he is offering her an assignment. An important issue in St. Augustine. He needed her expertise.
An innocent woman, who is a friend of his. She will be indicted for murder if they do not move fast. Her mother is dead (accident, suicide, murder)? He wants to hire her as a consultant. They have to prove that her daughter did not commit the murder.
“Safe on the South Shores forevermore.”
Could she leave Southwest Florida and travel to Northwest – St. Augustine, Florida (St. John’s County) for a murder case which could be tricky and dangerous. However, Nick convinces her this is a victim, not a murderer. The money was good, at a rate of three hundred dollars a day. Nick is Jasmine’s lawyer. He needs Claire’s help. They need to make sure Jasmine and Shadowlawn are protected.
If she helped his South Shores company prove that Jasmine Montgomery Stanton did not murder her mother, Francine, there was a $10,000 bonus. She agrees. She also is introduced to Hector Munez, the South Shores geek genius and an array of other characters involved in the mystery.
Jace is furious, why should take his daughter and put her in further danger, while she had narcolepsy with mild cataplexy. Of course, he was a driven perfectionist. Claire only wants to build her business.
Claire had done her homework on Nick. Nick’s father Nicholas Markwood, Sr. had committed suicide when Nick was ten over a bad land deal that had swept him into debt and ruined his reputation and the reputation of the law firm. Nick had resurrected it later.
She made sure he was aware of her disease PWN (Persons with Narcolepsy) Often there could be brief, sudden immobility or paralysis that can occur on waking or dozing off, when emotional or not taking meds properly or on time. Often there is hallucinations and nightmares, or ghosts, when younger. Of course, Nick is aware of this and he has seen her in action in the courtroom under high stress. He has no doubt she can help him. Nick keeps the Shadowlawn ghosts to himself.
Soon Claire is mixed up with ghosts from Shadowlawn and Nick's past. Nick was hiding one of the real purposes of South Shores, a risk for him, and hopefully not for her.
Nick knew his dad had not shot himself. If it was the last thing Nick ever did, he would provide it and nail who killed him. He knew who that was, or thought so. He too was being stalked. But by his dad’s killer or by someone else he had let down. He had enemies. Most criminal lawyers did.
Claire soon becomes immersed with rampaging emotions, and Jace is jealous with her working relationship with Nick, showing up unannounced. Jace had a temper and Claire, the delicate strong woman still could push his buttons. He had to get her away from Markwood. He did not trust rich lawyers.
Her delicate appearance was deceptive. She was strong, great at psyching out people's lies and deceits and patching together the truth. She performed forensic autopsies where a person, living or dead, was dissected through their statements and deeds to ferret out guilt. Nick wished he could find a clear path for her and Lexi-and himself. Out of this looming catastrophe. He had caused this nightmare. Could he save her to lose her again?
From murder, danger, stalking, cryptic notes, hauntings, suicides, spirits, ghosts, revenge, danger, attacking, and old cat-and-mouse-games toying with his prey, a web of deceit – and now kidnapping. Was she a magnet for trouble?
Readers are left with a cliffhanger taking us into the second and third in the South Shores series. As usual, I am along for the ride, as in her previous series. There is always a dark past and secret to be uncovered.
Drowning Tides #2, and Falling Darkness #3.
As always, Harper adds a ghostly haunted twist to her adrenaline-fueled suspense thrillers, and this time the addition of St. Augustine, known for its ghosts was fitting. I am not a fan of paranormal or romance; however, do enjoy a good mystery and suspense.
A special thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
On a personal note:
It was fun visiting parts of Florida and its familiar settings. Being and part-time Florida resident for years and full time for the last twelve years, have lived in St. John’s County (Ponte Vedra Beach), on A1A, just north of Vilona Beach and St. Augustine, (south of Jacksonville) working for a real estate developer, overseeing luxury coastal properties in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, Jacksonville, Amelia Island and Fernandina.
St. Augustine offers much history and some cool historic inns I have worked with as clients and some great antique shopping. (A little too touristy for my taste). I find anything north of South Florida is more like South Georgia. So much fun touring Florida, as I have also lived in Volusia County (Palm Coast, Ormond Beach); later Monroe County (Keys) and Palm Beach County (where I currently reside).
My favorite, of course, is South Florida, where I have lived and worked since 2006 (east and west). Working for a commercial real estate investment firm, have worked in Naples, Sarasota, Tampa area, as well as Miami, the Keys, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. I have made the trip so many times from east to west Florida and the Alligator Alley is the most boring drive ever! Had to laugh, as yes seen many alligators crossing.
I always have a good audio book when making the drive- I could also do it in my sleep. Love the Hyatt Bonita Springs and The Inn on Fifth, Naples! Have flown out of the (very) small airport in Naples many times with trips to Atlanta. Love Siesta Key as well.
If you are in Florida, you may want to visit the Kingsley Plantation (known for its ghosts) in North Jacksonville, (mentioned in the novel), a real site of a former estate that was named for an early owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, who spent 25 years there. It is located at the northern tip of Fort George Island at Fort George Inlet, and is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve managed by the U.S. National Park Service.
A lot of history. Of course, fun to revisit all the movie references filmed on the St. John’s River!
Looking forward to the next in the series!