Some family secrets are deadly…
Inventorying human remains can be difficult at the best of times without a creepy security guard hovering over Maddie Foster’s shoulder. Nervous about being stuck in the crypt with the strange man, Maddie asks a friend of a friend to drop by and pretend to be her boyfriend to force the guy to back off.
Raptor operative Josh Warner recently moved to Oregon to take over as guardian to his troubled niece and open a new private security branch in the Pacific Northwest. Josh doesn’t hesitate to help Maddie and is intrigued by the brainy museologist. His protective nature kicks into high gear as he discovers she may be in very real danger.
Tensions run hot in the summer heat as Josh’s work puts everyone he cares about at risk, and Maddie’s research into the museum collection raises questions better left buried. As their city teeters on the precipice of violence, Josh and Maddie find themselves embroiled in a deadly scheme that could reshape the nation.
Rachel Grant is one of my favourite authors of romantic suspense (if not THE favourite) and I was thrilled when she announced she’d be continuing her long-running Evidence series following the winding up of her excellent Flashpoint trilogy. Tainted Evidence is the tenth Evidence book, and the author shows no sign of running out of steam, presenting just the sort of high-stakes, clever plot I’ve come to expect together with interesting, complex characters that are easy to root for, and a number of tense, edge-of-the-seat storylines. One of the things I always enjoy about Ms. Grant’s books is their topicality – I recall some of the scenarios in the Flashpoint books being all-too-scarily plausible for example – and that is definitely the case here, as the suspense plot deals with some sensitive and very current topics about things happening in America today. I know that not everyone is up for a dose of real-life politics in their romance novels, so I’ll say right now that while I do recommend the book, some readers may find certain aspects of it cut a little close to the bone.
Museologist Maddie Foster has been employed to examine over two hundred sets of remains housed at the mansion – formerly a private museum – of the Kocher family in Troutdale, Oregon. Almost a century earlier, Otto Kocher had looted hundreds of ancient and indigenous graves, stealing both funerary objects and human remains, and circumvented the law about displaying the remains by housing them in underground vaults. But now the state has finally ordered the museum’s closure and the disgruntled family can’t sell the house until all the remains have been catalogued prior to repatriation. When the book opens, Maddie is on her first day of at least ten in the musty basement of the house – and as if being cooped up for days underground weren’t bad enough, Otto’s grandson Toby, who is – ostensibly – acting as a security guard, is creeping her out. He stands too close, repeatedly draws attention to the gun and taser he wears, obviously in an attempt to intimidate her, and while she hates admitting it, even to herself, Maddie IS intimidated. On her lunch break, she calls her best friend, Trina Sorensen (Witholding Evidence), who is now happily married to Keith Hatcher, CEO of Raptor, a high-end private security and military training company. A few weeks earlier, Trina had mentioned that one of Keith’s best friends, Josh Warner, was moving to Portland and tried to set them up, but Maddie had just gone through a break-up and wasn’t interested in dating anyone. Now, however, she needs someone to get Kocher to back off, and she asks Trina if maybe Josh would be able to show up and pretend to be her boyfriend for an hour.
Josh Warner grew up in Oregon, and, following his stint in the Navy, has been working for Raptor out of their DC office for the past five years. When he received news that his brother was being sent to prison, Josh knew he needed to get home to look after his seventeen-year-old niece, Ava, a troubled young woman with anxiety and abandonment issues. He’s now Ava’s legal guardian and is determined to do his absolute best to provide the safe, loving environment she needs. But between his responsibilities to Ava, to Raptor and his friend and former comrade Owen, whom Josh has been helping to get back on his feet following injury and addiction, Josh has no time for a personal life – which is a real bummer, because the minute he sets eyes on Maddie he feels an instant pull of attraction… and knows it’s mutual.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.