Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reviewing the "Ruby Heart"

It may be a cold day outside, but inside I'm warm and toasty.  Winter is here.  Christmas is coming.  My heart is full.

Heart did I say?  Well yes, because today we're gonna talk about hearts.  Not warm hearts.  Not cold hearts.  But ruby hearts.  Cristelle Comby has released the latest in the Neve & Egan series - Ruby Heart - and it approaches one of my most favorite history topics, World War II.

Ruby Heart Book Summary:
When elderly client Doris Hargrave informs private investigator Alexandra Neve that her beloved antique ruby heart necklace has gone missing for the second time in a period of over sixty years, Alexandra knows this is no ordinary jewellery theft. The ruby heart is a family heirloom and the only thing that connects an ailing Mrs Hargrave to her parents, who were murdered during the Holocaust.

To solve the case, Alexandra and her business partner, blind history professor Ashford Egan, must sift through obscure Holocaust documents to find out the truth. It’s that way that they learn of a secret World War II-era love affair which could hold the key to all the answers they are looking for. Meanwhile, Egan is under immense pressure from the university to quit his private investigating business, and Alexandra is afraid that a man she trusts will leave her. Again.

When Alexandra begins to receive anonymous threats and her flat is vandalised, this all becomes personal. Knowing that there is someone out there to hurt her, Alexandra vows to find that elusive ruby heart if it’s the last thing she ever does.

My Review:
First off, I'm finding the Neve & Egan series to be quite charming.  The first book, Russian Dolls, was offered to reviewers to obtain the introduction to this unlikely sleuthing pair.  However, I think Ruby Heart gives enough backstory to be able to follow it without having first read Russian Dolls, though I would still recommend reading the series as a whole just because it is good.

After the events of the first book, including the loss of her best friend, and the subsequent media frenzy, Alexandra - or Lexa to her friends - decides to leave the university life behind for the life of a PI.  Part-time university history professor and her blind business partner, Ashford Egan, is a prickly character to both students and faculty alike.  But Lexa is able to see beyond the candy-coated shell to the soft chocolate center.  Thus the friendship and business relationship begins.

At first I was worried this would devolve into a middle-aged professor meets much younger student - you get the picture.  But I've been very pleased to see the relationship grow more like a father/daughter scenario (Lexa's father died years before) and it's very sweet to "see" played out in the pages.  Ash gets onto Lexa when she lets her frustration and mouth get the better of a situation (I can sooo relate to her that way), and Lexa helps Ash to express emotion and better relate to others.  Plus in their business relationship, Lexa can explore where Ash can't, and Ash's other senses are heightened due to his blindness and can detect intentions and what isn't being said by the people they interview.

So getting back to Ruby Heart.  Lexa is visited by Doris Hargrave, an ailing, old woman with an urgent plea.  Mrs. Hargrave emigrated to England in the nineteen-thirties as a young child from a wealthy German family of jewelers - and they were Jewish.  During the events of the Holocaust, she lost her entire family and a precious family heirloom, a pendant made from the finest rubies and diamonds and fashioned into the shape of a heart.  The pendant turned up recently when a home in Italy was demolished, returned to it's rightful owner, and subsequently stolen from Mrs. Hargrave once again.  Now she's desperate to recover it to pass on the hope of a happy marriage to her beloved granddaughter.

If a half-century old mystery isn't enough pressure for Lexa, Ashford is being forced to decide between being a blind detective or remaining with the university (and guaranteed income).  Lexa knows what Ash should do and is torn by what she wants him to choose.

To discover the reason for the current theft, Lexa and Ash have to follow a cold trail that forces them to explore the horrors of the Holocaust through the pages left over from the path through Germany to Italy - and possible ties to the Mafioso. 

At times, just when they have no further leads to go on, something pops up to turn them in the right direction.  A time or two this almost felt too easy and contrived, but since I was already invested in the characters and the story, I didn't let it bother me too much. 

I liked the bit of play between Lexa and Stensen, a young officer she's worked with on her cases, and I suspect a bit of foreshadowing of a possible relationship building for later in the series (wink-wink).  Then there's the fact that those with whom Lexa is close seem to be getting hurt - namely in this one, her mother.  But one thing I find interesting is that even though it is Lexa and Ash doing the investigating, Lexa's home is the only one that seems to get invaded.  The bad guys never seem to know where Ash lives so that feels a bit odd to me.  I've just chalked it up to the fact that Lexa seems to be the one doing the majority of the footwork.

Through the series, I really enjoyed the variety of characters Ms. Comby has created in this series.  Ashford's "friend", Dimitri, provides a little more backstory on how he came to be indebted to Ash - very interesting.  And I'm especially liking this mysterious underworld character who we never see but who is lurking in the shadows behind the series.  Oh, and this character is the one REALLY responsible for Lexa's best friend's death in book one.  His only name?  The Sorter.

Ooooo!  So if you're looking for a mystery series that isn't too deep (but has the promise to be), has some action, and threatens to teach you a bit about history, pick up Ruby Heart.  Better yet, just start with book one of the Neve & Egan series.  You'll be glad you did.

Author Bio:

Cristelle Comby was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, in Greater Geneva, where she still resides.

Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and television dramas, her English is fluent.

She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.

Ruby Heart is her second new-adult novel, and she’s hard at work on the next titles in the Neve & Egan series.  Check out her website

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  1. D A, I can tell you really enjoyed this one! It was right up your alley. Thanks for the review! Happy Holidays :)

  2. Heya,

    Thank you very much for the kind review. I'm really happy you enjoyed both novels!

    All my best,


    1. Hi Cristelle! Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your blog tour. Good luck and happy writing on the next in the Neve & Egan series.