Ok, this is one hard book to rate because it was so uneven. The first 150 pages were a solid 5 stars, even if the romance was almost non-existent. But still the suspense, the characters, the intrigue kept me at the edge of my seat and made it hard for me to put it down. At this point, this book was one of the best I've ever read.
And then, the PNR elements arrived. I did not have a problem with the PNR elements themselves, but by the way they were handled. For once, they took over almost 100 pages where nothing really happened, beyond the heroine's recognition that there is an after life and how amazing, and peaceful, and serene, and fullfiling and yada yada
it is. So, it's 2 stars for this part.
When I'd almost given up hope, the suspense kicked again and the romance too, more loudly this time. And at least, I had the urge again to see what will happen. It was interesting, it was fast, it was almost as nice as the beginning, until the last 20 pages. I suddenly felt as if I had jumped right into Buscalia's Living Loving and Learning. Love is the answer to everything, to love someone and being loved is the most important thing in life, to do something out of pure love is the most rewarding experience... you get the point. And how love for an assassin is justified? Well, when ordered by a thug to kill someone, that someone must also be a thug, right? So he actually did a good thing cleaning up some of the bad guys of the world. Sorry, but that is cheesy at best to me. I felt it would be better to leave his profession unmentioned and just say he's a changed man. To try to justify something usually means there's a wrong in there anyway IMO. So it's 3 stars for this final part.
I have the feeling that Howard must have gone through a personal tragedy before she wrote this book and wanted to put her belief that "death is not the end" (to quote Nick Cave) in her work. This wouldn't be so bad, if it was not hammered again and again on the reader and bogged down the story.
All in all, a nice book with a very strong Anne Stuart feeling which would have been a great suspense had it not been bogged down by so many philosophical/metaphysical ideas.