A Faint Cold Fear

A Faint Cold Fear_KarinSlaughter_10216957

UNEARNED GUILT

4 STARS

Sunday starts quite badly for one young Grant Tech student. Andy Rosen’s body lies in a dry riverbed, apparently as a result of jumping off the bridge that crosses that riverbed near the college.

Sunday ends quite badly for another young person and it ends only a few hundred yards from Rosen. Tessa Linton’s body lies on a trail in the woods overlooking the death site. She has been nearly scalped and has a knife wound in her chest. She has been partially eviscerated by two slashes to her stomach, blood is pouring freely and her 8-months-old fetus is dead. But, unlike Andy Rosen, Tessa is still breathing, but just barely, when she is found.

Having ice cream with her sister, Tessa, when she gets the call about the apparent suicide, Sara Linton, the county medical examiner and one of the main protagonists in the series, lets Tessa do a ride-along with her. While Sara works the body, the pregnant Tessa steps into the adjacent woods for a “pit stop.”

Now finished with the body and realizing that Tessa hasn’t returned, Sara and Jeffrey Tolliver (who is Sara’s ex-husband, the local Chief of Police and the second main protagonist of the series), launch a search. By the time Sara finds Tessa and gets her aboard a medevac, one of the searchers, Lena Adams (an ex-cop and the third protagonist, or, should I say, antagonist, of the series) has spotted and chased a fleeing man.

Now, Linton and Tolliver are not so sure that Rosen’s death is truly a suicide. Only one mark on the body is suspicious, but Tessa’s stabbing is too close in both vicinity and timing to be written off as a random event.

For almost 450 pages, Karin Slaughter bombards the reader with guilt, culpability, self-blame, self-destructiveness, helplessness, self-delusion, failure, verbal defensiveness, physical domestic abuse, lies by omission, passive-aggressive tendencies, self-reproach, self-condemnation, shame, remorse, compunction and plain old-fashioned stubbornness. By the end of the book, the main characters will do enough screaming to cause hearing loss and shed enough tears to fill that dry riverbed.

Karin Slaughter never lets up on the pain. There are simply no happy moments, no smiles, and no laughs that are not tainted by some underlying current of misery. Quite frankly, this is not a book to read on a rainy day.

However, constant misery aside, the who-done-it and the why-done-it are not easy to figure. There are so many dysfunctional, neurotic and sociopathic characters in evidence that it is difficult to get a handle on just who is the worst of the bunch. Everyone is hiding something and nearly everyone is doing his or her utmost best to deflect attention away and implicate someone else in the crimes. As the book barrels to the climax, the only people the reader can eliminate as suspects are Linton and Tolliver.

Slaughter makes reading between the lines a must in this novel. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can be taken at face value, not even the confession. Sometimes, what is not said is infinitely more important than what is actually spoken. And when you reach the last three paragraphs of the book, do not be surprised when your eyes widen, your eyebrows shoot up into your hairline and you gasp, “Oh. My. God.”

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She’s Me

Grunge color texture, blue and brown color

OPPOSITES, AND ALL THAT

3 STARS

Jenna McBride is a world-famous, much in demand supermodel. She has a beautiful face, a marvelously thin and toned body and the personality of a run-over rattlesnake.

While she may have been born a beautiful child, she is, as a young adult, still beautiful because she takes good care of her face, her hair and her skin. She has that marvelously thin body, not because of drugs or anorexia, but because of a healthy, low-calorie diet and specifically targeted physical exercises. And she has the vicious personality as self-protection against a world, a world that includes her parents and social companions, which sees her only as a sex object and a bankroll.

Then, one fateful day, after finishing a photo shoot in the English countryside, Jenna pricks her finger on a rose’s thorn just as she sits down on a bench in front of an old vicarage. And, just like that, Jenna’s body slips into a coma and her spirit is transported back 43 years to 1963. She finds herself on that same bench, but that’s all she recognizes.

Jenna’s spirit is now trapped in the body of a young woman who is the complete antithesis of herself – plump, homely and painfully shy. It seems Lucy McGillicuddy pricked her finger on a rose’s thorn by the same vicarage bench at the very same time as Jenna, just decades apart in time. Now, two spirits must learn to live together and thrive together until they can find a way for Jenna to return to her own time.

Mimi Barbour presents a marvelous set-up for a time-travel fantasy and subsequent double romance. But she tries to execute it in only 55 pages. That is simply not enough space to transition cleanly and clearly from an initial diagnosis of multiple personality disorder by the doctors treating Lucy to an acceptance by those same doctors that both Jenna and time travel are real. And it is not enough space to adequately deal with either the return of the spirits to their own time or with the double romance that occurs while Jenna and Lucy are entwined.

Thus, scene transitions are often sloppy and confusing. Several pivotal conversations are truncated, leaving a feeling of “what just happened here?” And, in the denouement, an action that Lucy doesn’t take is definitely dramatic in terms of creating tension but does not jibe with the final scene.

Quite frankly, if the author had just used another 30 pages for some fine-tuning and some fleshing out, this story would have been a five-star read.

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Creation In Death

Creation In Death_JDRobb_2815495

HOURS, MINUTES AND SECONDS

5 STARS

Nine years ago, a serial killer, dubbed The Groom, tortured and murdered four women in fifteen days. The naked bodies were found publically posed on a white sheet. Each body possessed multiple burns caused by both heat and cold, multiple puncture wounds caused by round objects, multiple bruises caused by inanimate objects and multiple lacerations caused by very sharp blades. Not a one had been raped.

And while he was called “The Groom” because he placed a silver ring on the left hand, that was only part of the killer’s signature. Another part was that all the women were brunette, fitly built and between the ages of 28 and 33. Never released to the public, however, was the fact that the killer carved into each torso, post-mortem, the exact number of hours, minutes and seconds that had elapsed from the first mark to the final heartbeat.

Now, in March 2060, The Groom has returned, placing on display the tortured and carved body of the female manager of one of Roarke’s more popular clubs. The body has been bathed and anointed in high-end products exclusive to a subsidiary of Roarke Enterprises. And the sheet on which the body is posed is expensive Irish linen, again exclusive to Roarke’s company. Then, within hours of discovering that body, another female Roarke Enterprises employee is reported missing. It appears that The Groom is targeting Roarke by proxy.

In charge of a task force dedicated to the capture of the killer, Eve Dallas and her team soon discover that at least 20 bodies with the same signature have been found worldwide over the past 9 years. However, none of those victims, or any of the four previously found in NYC, relate to Roarke in even the slightest way. It appears that, in this spree, Roarke is only a pawn, a connector to the killer’s end game – Eve. Just as the Biblical Eve was God’s last creation in life, Eve Dallas is meant to be the killer’s most important, most challenging, most exquisite – and his last – creation in death.

Pawn or not, Roarke is involved in this investigation from call-out to heart-pounding conclusion, a situation that Robb has not duplicated since the first novel of the series. As a full-time member of the task force assigned to the investigation, Roarke finally gets to observe Eve in every aspect of her job. He sees her functioning as the primary investigator into the murders, as the departmental head of a team of detectives working a myriad of homicides, as a drone gnawing on the bones of every lead, as a leader of a multi-divisional task force – and as bait for the killer.

Roarke learns what a day in the zoo that is Cop Central really consists of as opposed to his comfortable and secluded home office where he usually does his research. And he re-learns what it means to be absolutely and totally mentally whipped and bone-weary at the end of a day, as he must, in addition to his task force assignments, still command Roarke Enterprises.

Although this is the 25th entry in the series, Robb still finds a way to keep it exciting and not be a cookie-cutter version of previous books. Subtly changing both the personal and professional dynamics of several main and secondary characters, Robb makes this entry an original. And those subtle changes set the stage for the next book.

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