Dear Ms. Parrish,
It was the review at AAR that convinced me to try “Fade to Black.” I have the same issues with romantic suspense novels that reviewer Katie Mack lists: convenient TSTL moments, too alpha heroes, suspense plots that aren’t suspenseful and, my personal bugaboo, inappropriately timed sex. I also don’t like my rom-susp books to be too graphic. Thankfully, this book avoids these common pitfalls.
The FBI has a new super group of agents called the Cyber Action Team, aka CAT, and they’re out to solve Internet related murders. Sad world when we need something like this. The group is so new that they don’t even have their headquarters, so to speak, set up yet but already they’ve got their first case.
The Reaper is a killer who’s been at work for over a year and a half. He offers the other deviant souls who inhabit the website called Satan’s Playground the chance to bid on his auctions. The winning bidder gets to choose how the next victim will die. The Reaper then abducts the victim, kills them as per the request of the bidder then posts the video online for all to watch.
Dean Taggert is the lead agent assigned to check out the, up to now, missing person who the group thinks is actually the killer’s first victim. He hopes that the sheriff of the small Virginia town where the woman lived will be easy to work with. What he finds is that Stacey Rhodes is not only easy on the eyes but a damn good law enforcement officer.
The clock is ticking, the auction has been listed and a winning bid received. Can the team stop the Reaper before any more innocent victims die?
This world is getting sick enough that I’m afraid that someday something like this just might actually happen. But for now, it’s enough to just imagine it. After all the possible suspects get introduced into the plot, I like to take a guess then read along and see if I’m right. This time, I guessed wrong. Like Stacey and Dean warn each other, I need to avoid jumping to conclusions. Once I knew the killer’s id, I thought backwards to check that, yes, clues had been there. No neon arrows were pointing to the person and announcing “KILLER HERE!” but I also didn’t feel the end result came from nowhere.
Stacey is what Dean sees her to be, a good cop with good instincts who knows her small town and the people in it. Or most of them. It does shake her to realize that someone this twisted is living among the rest of the residents – some of whom also harbor dark secrets – but she doesn’t go all, “No way, you must be mistaken, that person couldn’t live in my town” on the FBI agents. She’s smart, contributes to the investigation and gets a pretty good guy – but one who would definitely do better with a fellow law officer rather than the woman he married the first time.
Dean is dedicated, as are the rest of the agents, and determined to take the Reaper down. The CAT agents work long hours, fuel themselves on coffee to keep going and depend on good, old fashioned detective work as well as using smart computer people. Dean’s also delighted to find a woman who bluntly speaks her mind and doesn’t get all coy about their mutual attraction. As I was reading the book, there was only one time when I thought, “Now is not the time for sex!” And thankfully at the last minute, Dean and Stacey veer away from it and go solve the case.
I’ve questioned this before in rom-susp books but I’d really like to know the answer: would agents/officers be allowed to continue working on a case that mirrors something that has affected them in real life? There is one agent here who seems to tread the line and in real life, I would worry that anything they uncovered in an investigation would be attacked by a good defense attorney. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many cases of Law & Order.
So here’s a heroine who doesn’t turn TSTL, a hero who thinks she’s sexy on the shooting range, an open ended romance that, yes, was a little fast, a killer who gets punished and the beginning of a new series. All in all, pretty darn good, IMO. B