America is unlucky enough to have a literary subgenre all its own•, the mass shooting survivor novel. Nora Roberts turns her talented hand to the subject in her upcoming novel Shelter in Place. In addition to exploring how people were affected by the shooting, she added the complication of an unknown conspirator who seeks revenge on those who survived.

The story focuses on a few of the survivors, Simone whose call to 9-1-1 saved many lives, Reed who rescued a young boy, and Essie, the cop who shot one of the killers. They, their friends, and family are transformed by the tragedy. The story follows them into the future where Reed has become a police officer, now partnering with Essie, and Simone is finding her way as an artist. The sister of one of the shooters, Patricia, has stewed in resentment for years and is now resolved to punish the survivors, in particular, those most responsible for ending the attack before hundreds were murdered.

Nora Roberts knows how to write a compulsive read that won’t let you go. I planned to read this in April, closer to its release date, but I made the mistake of picking it up and reading the first chapter. I was hooked. I had to finish it. Really, her books should come with a warning label–don’t start until you are ready to read to the end.

If you like Nora Roberts, as I do, there is a lot to like in Shelter in Place. It has many of the familiar elements, romance, suspense, light humor, and good people who you can’t help liking. They are the kind of people you would like to know, people who would be fun to hang out with over beer and pizza. But then there is Patricia, who is an unmitigated evil force, who planned the mall shooting, who is now killing off the survivors one by one. As a character, she is not particularly interesting, too one-dimensional to spark any real interest, but her murders are creative–she has no singular method and cleverly evades discovery for a long time by making deaths seem accidental until things go awry in a big way.

Nora Roberts has written over two hundred books. Her readers find familiar themes and you could say her work is formulaic, but it’s a winning formula for me. The characters are sensible people. The romance is light and casual. The men respect women and the women do the same.  There’s a deep and abiding optimism that infuses her stories, people believe in each other, support each other, and look for the best. When they are challenged by evil, they face it with energy and wit.

Shelter in Place will be released on May 29th. I received an Advance Reader’s Copy from the publisher through a Shelf Awareness drawing.

•  There are few non-American mass shooting novels. Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito takes place in Sweden. GoodReads has a list of school shooting novels.

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