Duology Review: Sacred Sins & Brazen Virtue

Sacred Sins
The cover of my copy – Bantam edition, before the makeover cover

Title: Sacred Sins
Series: no official name (Goodreads terms it D.C. Detectives; I call it SS/BV) #1
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication year: 1987
Publisher: Bantam Books

Washington D.C. There is a serial killer on the loose, whom the media has dubbed “The Priest” since he strangles his victim with a white amice and leaves a note saying “Her sins are forgiven her.”
Detectives Ben Paris and Ed Jackson who are assigned to the case react differently when their Captain announces they are bringing in a psychiatrist, Dr. Teresa Court. Ed, in his own tea-drinking, nut-munching way, accepts it quietly, thinking it might help their case. It’s Ben who is suspicious of psychiatrists.
Tess herself isn’t exactly thrilled to have more workload, but once she gets to “know” the killer’s mind, she can’t shake the feeling that she might help him.

Sacred Sins is one of Nora Roberts’ older novels, published “only” six years after her first novel. I tend to prefer her older titles, ranging from late-80s to mid-90s (Honest Illusions, The MacGregor series, Dream trilogy, Born In trilogy, Royals of Cordina… need I say more?). Sacred Sins was no exception – I was taken by the level-headed Tess who cares deeply for her patients, the gruff cynist Ben and the easy-going health-expert Ed. The plot twist took me by surprise, which is saying something! And the romance… it’s impossible not to enjoy it if you are rooting for both characters.
The opening scene of the book especially caught my attention. I love the way Nora Roberts paints the stage – the hot weather, restless people, a college guy playing frisbee while hoping to impress the art student, his friend jogging after the carelessly flung frisbee and finding the first victim. You can almost feel the relentless heat, see the people trying to remain in shade as the sun moves, breathe in the heated air. Nora Roberts truly is a word artist.

Another Bantam cover - and not one of its best
Another Bantam cover – and not one of its best

Title: Brazen Virtue
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication year: 1988
Publisher: Bantam Books

Grace McCabe is an award-winning mystery author, and she decides to move in with her newly divorced sister Kathleen for a while, in an attempt to help her sister through her grief and to build a sisterly bond between them.
Kathleen has taken up a side job moonlighting as a phone sex operator working for Fantasy Inc. Then an employee of Fantasy Inc. gets murdered, and Grace turns to the police detective/Kathleen’s neighbor for help – who happens to be Ed Jackson repairing the house he bought some months ago.

Since I already knew Ed’s eccentricities from Sacred Sins, it wasn’t much of a surprise to find him eating artichokes and drinking herb tea. What did surprise me was that he didn’t try to censor Grace’s eating habits as often as he does Ben’s.
Speaking of which, it was really nice to see Ben and Tess again, and see their relationship flourish. Readers who haven’t read Sacred Sins can read Brazen Virtue without being spoiled much except for how the relationship Ben-Tess came to be.
In Sacred Sins I’d wondered what kind of personality would fit Ed’s. When I was first introduced to the disorganized, energetic, curious Grace, I was skeptical, but soon grew to see why Ed was so smitten with her. I did briefly wonder whether Nora Roberts was describing her own situation and feelings as a mystery writer (among other genres) when talking about Grace’s.
There is one big twist (for me) relatively in the beginning but otherwise it’s the kind of Nora book where the readers already know the killer(s) – the characters don’t. So while the plot tension lacked a bit, the rest was enjoyable. I did miss the quasi-sisterly-development between Grace and Kathleen. I would have liked to see it.

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