This book falls into the genre of “romantic suspense,” a genre I ordinarily eschew. But I won this book in a contest, so there it was, calling out to me from my TBR pile. It was interesting to realize that if you excised all the scenes involving “romantic” encounters between “ruggedly handsome” Daniel Vartanian and “beautiful, full-lipped” Alexandra “Alex” Fallon, you’d still have a pretty good suspense novel AND not really notice the difference.
Daniel Vartanian (of ruggedly handsome fame) is a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, called in to help with a brutal murder in Arcadia, Georgia because the locals lack the resources to deal with it. It is immediately clear that the case is a copycat crime of one committed thirteen years previously, when Alicia Tremaine was found dead in a ditch.
Alicia’s twin, Alex, was seriously traumatized by the crime, although, as indicated above, she managed to grow up to be beautiful and full-lipped. As if the brutal murder of her sister weren’t enough, it was quickly followed by her mother’s apparent suicide. Alex’s aunt took her away to live in Ohio. Alex, now 29 and a nurse, comes back to Arcadia because her stepsister Bailey is missing. Alex is afraid Bailey is a victim of the copycat killer and contacts Daniel.
Daniel too has a painful family history, and he and Alex bond at once, first spiritually, then physically. The descriptions of sex were kind of cheesy but displayed two attributes I appreciated: (1) a dearth of anatomical descriptions; and (2) Daniel uses a condom: yay!
Meanwhile, bodies continue to turn up apace in various ditches around town, all exhibiting the same modus operandi. Will Daniel, Alex, and the others involved figure out what is going on before they all end up dead?
Evaluation: We know the killer’s name and mindset from the very beginning, as he speaks in alternate chapters along with other characters, some of whom are identified and some not. In spite of the reader being fairly well-informed, the level of suspense stays high in the book, and it also manages to be rather scary, even though there isn’t much in the way of graphic description (thank Heavens). I came away with the impression that if the author sacrificed the “romantic” part, which would include ditching the provocative title and cover, she could attain mainstream acceptability, i.e., among that part of the mainstream that enjoys books about serial killers preying on women.
Published by Grand Central, 2008