Reviewed: September 27, 2011
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Chasing Evil Trilogy, Book 3
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 432 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Mira Books publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Three years ago, FBI Special Agent Eric Macfarlane was in Maryland, hot on the trail of a vicious killer who called himself The Collector. As a member of the FBI's Violent Crimes Unit, he was trained to hunt serial killers, but nothing could have prepared him for his wife Rebecca becoming the sadistic monster's fifth victim. The Collector slipped through his fingers, making Rebecca his final confirmed kill...an obscene retribution for which Eric still pays.
The Collector disappeared, and no victims have turned up that match his MO. Then Eric gets a call from his old partner and friend in Jacksonville, Florida. He tells Eric a chilling tale of a young woman, crime reporter Mia Hale, who had been found near the beach after fleeing an accident scene.
The woman had been nearly naked and drugged out of her mind. She showed signs of being restrained and tortured, and was covered in blood. Not all of it was hers. On her stomach someone had carved a number that is horrifyingly similar to numbers that Eric still sees in his darkest nightmares, that he saw on his own wife. But the one desecrating Mia's skin isn't the number five that had marked Rebecca's place in a psychopath's sick roll call. It's eight.
The Collector is back. And he's been a busy man.
Mia is the only victim to have escaped The Collector, but what she knows about the killer is locked away by the drug-induced retrograde amnesia she's suffering. Desperate to bring the monster down, Eric will do anything, push any angle, to get at the information that Mia has locked in her mind. Even if it puts her at risk. This is the one case that Eric can't let go...the one that took everything from him three years ago. And Eric knows beyond doubt that the monster will never stop, never, unless he can catch him before he strikes again.
I've been a fan of Tentler since her first book, Midnight Caller, and looked forward with anticipation to each subsequent book in this very loosely connected (as in not really at all) trilogy. Unfortunately, this one didn't work for me, a fact that I find frustrating, because by all rights, it should have. It's an intense psychological thriller, my favorite sort of romantic suspense. Neither the storyline nor the characters suffered any significant attack of the Ills and Imps. And Tentler can certainly write taut, horrific scenes that are gripping. All of those are big positives, and yet this one just fell short for me despite them all.
The main characters, Eric and Mia, were well developed and three dimensional. Their lives were filled in nicely with depth in their backstory and connections to friends, co-workers, and family. On top of that, I enjoyed them in their roles. I thought Eric's history with The Collector added quite a bit of gravitas to his situation, and the combination of Mia's professional experience and her memory loss melded together well to not only explain her lack of significant trauma from her experience, but forgive her determination to investigate the killer. Without that, she would have annoyed me senseless.
Unfortunately, despite Tenter's skill, I just didn't feel any sexual chemistry between them and the romance elements of the story failed to mesh for me because of it. I couldn't help but feel like they were being forced into their relationship instead of it being an organic extension of genuine attraction and increased sentiment. That's not to say that they didn't have some great scenes together, scenes filled with tension and intensity, but I just didn't buy their romantic relationship like I did for the romantic pairings in Tentler's first two books.
I also had an issue with a couple of story elements related to The Collector. We know from the beginning that this is one seriously screwed up, very bad man, sadistic and brutal. Had my view of him been limited to his crimes and his psychopathy, he would have been a powerful force of terror in the book. Unfortunately, parts of the narrative written from his perspective identified him and showed his relationship with his mother.
Instead of furthering a character study of a cold-blooded monster, he came off as weak and ineffectual in those scenes, a misogynist with Mommy issues. While it explained why he was who he was and how he became what he became, it robbed The Collector of his scary as all hell mojo and lent a pathetic air to his persona that did him an injustice in the book. I wouldn't have minded learning those things about The Collector in hindsight, but being peppered with it sporadically throughout the book had a negative impact.
I thought, too, that the storyline stretched a bit close towards unbelievable coincidence when connections between The Collector and Mia started to be woven into the story. I wish that had been left out of the narrative, because it didn't really work for me and it seemed a bit too far out there to be realistically plausible. It served no purpose beyond displaying an even sharper gradient of evil, and by the time the chips fell and the truth was known, it had become tragic but largely superfluous.
All of the issues I had are obviously quite subjective, and none of them take away from the fact that the book is well told, the characters are well written, and the crimes are well and truly grotesque. For me it just wasn't quite the powerhouse I was hoping for or expecting after the first two books in the series, especially the second one, Midnight Fear. It was okay, though, and I hope to have the pleasure of more from Tentler in the future.
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