Interior designer Zoe Luce senses strong emotions from walls. When the walls in her client’s bedroom scream at her, Zoe has serious doubts about his claim that his wife has left him taking their bed. She suspects he killed her. She contacts Ethan Truax, a private investigator, asking him to look into a possible missing persons case, but she doesn’t give him the whole story about why she thinks something is amiss. Experience has taught her not to reveal her psychic talents. Ethan’s investigation uncovers proof that Zoe’s suspicions were correct.
Zoe is soon back at Truax Investigations asking for Ethan’s assistance once again. She has received an anonymous blackmail note. She, along with her friend Arcadia, is an escapee from a mental institution. Zoe’s late husband was murdered, and she is convinced that his family institutionalized her so that they could control the shares of stock her husband left her.
Ethan has his own unusual personal history. His brother was murdered, and fake reports from psychics left him with a strong distaste for anyone claiming to be psychic. His sister-in-law and his two nephews live nearby, and he is close to all three. His hobby is investigating and solving years’ old mysteries. He has bought an old residence that was frequented by Hollywood stars in the 20's. The wife of the owner mysteriously died. Could she have been murdered?
When Ethan starts looking into who might be trying to blackmail Zoe, he discovers there are more possible suspects than merely her in-laws.
Light in Shadow is classic Jayne Ann Krentz - strong adult hero and heroine who are brought together by business interests, external forces require them to be together, love unexpectedly (at least to them) results, light humor, possible supernatural elements. It’s a formula that’s worked for this accomplished author for many years, and with this story it works again. The title page refers to this as “A Whispering Springs Novel” (Whispering Springs, Arizona, is the setting) so this may be the first of several interrelated books.
I’ve always liked the Krentz heroine - educated, intelligent, dedicated, stylish, independent with a smart mouth on her - the kind of heroine I would like to be! Zoe is solidly in this tradition. The author skips right past the picky detail of how Zoe managed to establish a successful career as an interior designer so quickly while keeping her past a secret, but perhaps romance heroines don’t need the same professional résumés as the rest of us. She’s a good match for Ethan - not because they’re so similar but because their differences complement each other.
Most Krentz stories include at least one quirky character, and there are a couple in Light in Shadow. The used bookstore owner seemed at first to be such a character, but he does come to play a functional role in the story.
Light in Shadow is more intricately plotted than some Krentz books. Rather than only one, there are several mysteries - did Zoe’s client kill his wife? who’s trying to blackmail Zoe? who killed the blackmailer? who killed Zoe’s late husband? who committed the 1920's murder? And there are multiple red herrings so readers won’t figure all the whodunits by chapter two.
If you’ve been a long-time fan of Jayne Ann Krentz, Light in Shadow won’t disappoint you. If you’re the rare romance readers who’s never read one of her books, this is a good place to begin.