Review of Still Waters (Sanctuary #4) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Adam Brooke is just coming off a Sanctuary case guarding a true slimeball and looking for some downtime when his boss pulls him into the largest investigation that organization has ever faced – the Bullen case.  Sanctuary is still guarding the two main eye witnesses against the Bullen family and now the FBI wants to take over both the investigation and the witnesses themselves.  Adam is to be the Sanctuary liaison with the FBI, a job he hates given the fact that the FBI forced him to resign after accusations he was “dirty”, his pain only compounded by the fact that his accusser was his Bureau partner and lover.

Lee Meyers is a straight up FBI agent assigned as the Bureau liaison to Sanctuary, an independent security agency in possession of two key witnesses to the high profile Bullen case.  Lee is aware that his ex-lover, Adam, now works for Sanctuary and hopes the case will finally give him the answers to Adam’s betrayal in the past.  Can Lee work past Adam’s animosity and Adam get through his anger and pain long enough to get the evidence both agencies need in order to solve the case?  Or will their past bring the case down around them?

Still Waters continues the story arc of the Bullen family  who are steeped deep in crime and politics.  And with each book, the case against the Bullens gets more complicated with sticky threads like those of a spider’s web stretching out to larger events and more characters than initially thought.  I love this part of the Sanctuary series. Just as you think Sanctuary and its agents have the case solved and the witnesses protected, another murder, another double agent or double cross pops up and all bets are off.  Still Waters moves the Bullen investigation forward only to see the organization retreat in the face of insufficient evidence and  increased pressure by the FBI to turn the case over to them.  We still don’t know the identity of the FBI mole but as a government agency the FBI has powers of authority that Sanctuary, a private firm, does not.  So the threat of the FBI takeover contributes to the mounting sense of anxiety for the reader as the book continues.  The threat the FBI poses is even more dangerous considering that the two men held in protective custody are Morgan (Guarding Morgan) and Beckett Jamieson aka Robert Bullen from
Face Value.  Morgan and Beckett have also become lovers to Sanctuary agents and we have come to love both couples as the saga continues.

Each new book introduces us to a new Sanctuary agent and their potential/past lover.  In Still Waters, we meet Adam Brooke, a former FBI agent falsely accused of misconduct by his lover and FBI agent partner Lee Meyers.  I loved Adam Brooke.  Filled full of bitterness at his betrayal by the FBI and the one person who should have stood  by him, his pain and loss are evident in his caustic manner and aggressive style.  Adam is a totally believable character in every respect, including his love for Lee.  He hates that he still has feelings for him  and it makes him cold and ruthless in his dealings with those outside the firm.  I think my problem with Still Waters is that where Adam seems fully realized, Lee does not, mostly due to Lee’s backstory.  Lee comes across as naive and filled with an idealism for the Bureau that would be fitting in a Rookie agent. But the storyline is that he has been an agent for years. For me that naive rigid outlook of Lee’s just seems unlikely for the seasoned agent he is supposed to be. Also when Lee is promoted to the Bureau’s Internal Investigation unit early, he doesn’t realize how his actions would effect his agent partner/lover.  Really?  Anyone in an internal investigations unit knows how they are perceived by other members of the department. For the reader to like Lee, you must be able to empathize with him, but his actions with regard to his lover make that hard as does his continuing belief that Adam really is “dirty”.  Lee just does not add up on so many levels, that at parts of the story I just wanted to see Adam dump him and find someone more worthwhile.  I can’t reveal more about Lee and his situation without going into spoiler territory which I won’t do.  I just wish RJ Scott had made Lee a rookie, complete with rookie mistakes.  That would have changed everything for me, including his believability and my ability to like him.  So let’s just say I am in love with half of this couple.  Of course, it would not be a Sanctuary novel without the appearances of agents from past novels, so we meet up with Kayden and Dale again as well as Manny, their IT genius.

But the real star of this book is the Bullen Family Investigation that is being stretched over the series.  So make sure you read the books in the order they are written. This is the only way you will meet the cast of characters mentioned all through the books and understand at least the starting points of the investigation. RJ Scott keeps one on the proverbial pins and needles here.  Just when you think you know who the mole is and that the investigation is wrapping up, the author throws more mysteries at you.  The criminals behavior is not what it should be, more shadow players are lurking in the background, and what is going on at Ops?  Still Waters ends but the Bullen Families crimes are still being uncovered and nothing is wrapped up.  I love that!  Book #5 is called Full Circle and RJ Scott has said that Sanctuary is a 5 book series.  But I can’t see how this convoluted case can be wrapped up in one book and I hear rumblings about another book with Dale and Joseph from The Only Easy Day which would make this reviewer’s day and then some.  So here I am waiting in anticipation for the Bullens to be brought to justice and Manny’s story.  I am confident that RJ Scott will give us another great read, and give Manny a lover worthy of such a great quirky character.

Cover: Artist Reese Dante.  I love that there is  continuity in using some of the same models throughout the series covers as the same characters popup  in each story.  Great cover, wonderful stories.  Perfect matchup.

Books are in order they are written:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) by RJ Scott

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2) by RJ Scott

Face Value (Sanctuary #3) by RJ Scott

Still Waters (Sanctuary #4) by RJ Scott

Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) by RJ Scott  (coming soon)

The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

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What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger