Since a tragedy claimed the life of her boyfriend Jared at Cambridge University, U.S. State Department intelligence officer Jordan Weiss has been run, run, running away from the past — fighting always to stay one step ahead of the painful memories. Advancing to her current post in Washington, D.C., Jordan chooses to stay emotionally aloof by burying her feelings and focusing always on her work.
Until a letter arrives, that is, changing everything. Sent from her close friend, now terminally ill, Sarah mentions she’s returned to England. Aware of her friend’s deteoriating health, Jordan barely hesitates before asking for a transfer to London to help care for her — in a place she has steadfastly avoided since her life there was shattered in the wake of Jared’s drowning. Now ten years removed from that terrible night, Jordan returns to the U.K. and immediately begins work with Maureen Martindale, a friend and superior who asks for her assistance in busting up a serious mob ring.
Aware of the danger surrounding her new task, Jordan carefully begins uncovering more than a few secrets floating around England — and one close to her heart. When an old Cambridge classmate reappears and begins asking questions about their shared past, the wounds on Jordan’s heart reopen. And it’s only through searching for the covered truth — with Chris Bannister, Jordan’s old best friend — that they might finally heal.
Atmospheric, cerebral and exciting, Pam Jenoff’s rollicking Almost Home kept me on the edge of my seat from page one. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a novel filled with so many elements — romance, murder, grief, passion, suspense, family — but Jenoff’s masterful use of description and language dropped me in the middle of each scene and refused to let me out.
As a reader, a novel’s setting — and the way in which it’s described — can make or break a book for me. In the case of Almost Home, the sense of place couldn’t have been more perfect or artfully described. As an Anglophile, I eagerly consumed Jenoff’s descriptions of England and British culture. And as the novel opens in Washington, my hometown, I could easily picture everywhere Jordan was traversing, giving the book added authenticity.
The mysteries embedded in the plot — plentiful, complicated — are what kept me up reading until 3 a.m. and up again just four hours later to finish. Jenoff dispenses enough information at each twist for us to feel like we’re “getting somewhere,” only to then flip around and unmask another complication. And I have one gripe about these mysteries: I think the back cover description gave away too much of the plot, and I knew more about the “mystery” going in than I would have wanted. In my own story description above, I’ve left out several key pieces of information you’d get from an Amazon or other description, so beware. It certainly did not ruin the novel for me, but I wish that one secret, in particular, hadn’t already been divulged.
Jordan’s character, while sometimes prickly, was someone I admired, respected and rooted for. I couldn’t completely understand her “any port in a storm” approach to romance, but I could also recognize the deep grief from which she was just beginning to recover and didn’t fault her for that. While some of her fledgling relationships felt a little one-dimensional, I did appreciate Jenoff’s development of one in particular.
Every reader will come to Almost Home with a different expectation — mystery, thriller, women’s fiction, historical fiction, British fiction — and probably find their needs met, as I did. Jenoff’s sequel Hidden Things is due out in July, and yours truly will be running (or, you know, driving) to the bookstore to find out what’s up next.
4.5 out of 5!