Watch Your Back is the fourth instalment in the Baltimore series which finally focuses on the burgeoning romance between Stevie Mazzetti and Clay Maynard.
Stevie and Clay’s relationship has been bubbling over in the background of the past couple of books in this series and I wasn’t really sure whether there was enough left to warrant a complete novel, however it seems Stevie’s story was far from over and Karen Rose was determined to get that happy ending. It’s not really a spoiler to say everything works out because Rose’s heroines always get their happy ending, they just have to suffer a while before they get there.
Stevie’s past has already been explored in the previous books so there aren’t many secrets left to reveal in connection to the murder of her husband and her son, other than who was really responsible and why it even happened. Eight years on, Stevie is still struggling to deal with her grief and the recent betrayal of her former police partner, Silas Dandridge, who threatened the life of her young daughter. While recovering from a serious injury, Stevie has been prying into some of Silas’s old cases, but it is bringing her to the attention of the wrong people. People who want her dead.
When Stevie is almost killed, Clay Maynard is determined to protect her, even if it means suffering another broken heart. I have to admit I’ve always struggled to like Stevie as a character, mainly because of the way she is constantly pushing people away. I get that Stevie is brittle because of the losses she has endured, but she is borderline nasty to Clay much of the time. Clay has been in love with Stevie for the last two years, despite her constant attempts to push him away and he just can’t find it in his heart to turn his back on her when she is in so much danger. Clay is one of the good guys and Stevie’s treatment of him just irks me.
While Stevie’s determination to do the right thing may be admirable, her stubborn refusal to accept help and her constant need to put herself in dangerous situations, is downright selfish when you consider how many innocents are being killed. I really just wanted to shake Stevie and scream at her to listen because her decisions are not always the best ones.
The plot is as complex as you would expect from Karen Rose, however if you haven’t read the previous Baltimore books, particularly the last two, then you are going to struggle as much of the background material comes directly from those previous books. While Rose’s books are always interconnected, mainly due to the recurring characters, this one is particularly linked and it will make more sense if you have read its predecessors.
While Robinette is a loathsome foe, he just doesn’t have the same dangerous edge as many of Rose’s previous villains, like Simon Vartanian who was chillingly psychotic and all the more memorable for it. Rose’s supporting characters are always well-rounded and she pulls the old gender avoidance trick on at least two of them which she is very good at doing, but I’m getting wise to it and saw through it this time. I also like to work out which characters are going to have their own books in the future and I’m really looking forward to learning more about Deacon Novak who is such an intriguing character.