I have an occasional argument with a friend who is certain that Nora Roberts has a stable of ghost writers and I am certain that she writes every word of her own books because the author voice is so consistent. I haven’t actually read a new Nora Roberts book in a few years, but Identity was like putting on an old familiar sweater. Of course Nora Roberts has evolved as an author over her 40+ year career, but I still know a Nora Roberts book when I pick it up (even when she’s writing under her pen name).
Morgan Nash Albright is working two jobs and has a housemate to help pay the mortgage on her small house. She’s saving money and putting down roots in a community she chose. At night she works as a bartender at a neighborhood bar and dreams of having her own place in the future. While at work, a handsome man strikes up a conversation with her. He comes back a few times and asks her out for a casual date. He never pressures her or makes her feel unsafe. He is a psychopath serial killer who has targeted her, plans to steal her identity and then murder her. It all goes wrong when he murders her housemate instead. She has the grief and then the financial fallout to deal with. Eventually she sells her house and moves in with her grandmother and mother in Vermont. She gets a job at a family run resort, starts to rebuild, and starts dating a son of the resort owning family. But, the serial killer hasn’t forgotten her.
This is actually a hard review to write. On the one hand, picking up Identity was so comfortable and familiar. Part of my brain snuggled right into the experience. I’d say among Nora Roberts’ books it’s very good, but not great. One of the features of Roberts’ books that I have always loved is the pulling together of family and community. Everyone, excluding the serial killer, is pulling for Morgan to success and putting in the resources to allow her to rebuild her life. She gets a job because her grandmother and the Jameson family matriarch go way back. At every turn she is offered help and support from friendship to the FBI. I believe every one deserves that level of support, so it is comforting to read a world in which that happens.
It also reminded me why Nora Roberts isn’t my go to author anymore. I don’t love hanging out in the mind of a misogynist, fatphobic serial killer. With all of the everything everywhere for the past 7 or so years, I just don’t want to be there. I know that he is the villain, so as readers we should understand that his misogyny and fat phobia is bad. But, the views he expresses are not outside the mainstream and I can hear women referred to as negative body descriptions by your average person in the grocery store. We also see him murder several women on page, and I don’t want that in my head (I can read the news for that). I also didn’t love that when the killer was unraveling he gained weight and found joy in potato chips. It felt like an extra helping of fat phobia. And I’m not even going to get into the mental health representation. I want to be clear that this is how I feel and I’m not demanding that anyone else feel the same way. We all cope with the world in our own ways.
If you like Nora Roberts, this is a very good entry to her oeuvre.
CW: Murder on page and in past, domestic abuse in past, mental illness, harm to an animal, misogyny, fat phobia, ace-phobia.
I received this as an advance reader copy from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.