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REVIEW: Fade to Black by Leslie Parrish

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

~Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. colleen
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 17:46:15

    Thanks for the review – and I appreciate that you didn’t include any spoilers! I bought this book last week after reading the glowing recommendations for it in the comments section of the review for Linda Howard’s “Burn.”
    I’m looking forward to reading “Fade to Black” … and have resisted the temptation to buy book 2 in the series until I read this one!
    Cheers, Colleen

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  2. Cindy
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 17:53:07

    I totally agree. The biggest reason this book worked for me and had me on the edge of the seat was the fact that I could so easily imagine this happening in real life. *shudders*

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  3. Jayne
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 18:40:55

    I tried to avoid spoilers and am glad I succeeded. I hate having my mystery/suspense books ruined – unless I ruin them myself by peeking!

    There’s only a slight set up here for the hero of the next book so I think readers would be able to pick up the series with that one if they wanted.

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  4. Jayne
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 18:43:29

    Cindy, a couple of years ago I would have thought NFW could this happen in real life. But with all the internet crimes and sickos in the world, I wonder now…

    One thing that did kind of bother me was the way the killer selected his victims. The type of victim, I mean.

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  5. ASable
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 18:49:12

    I liked this one. I’m not a big rom-susp fan because I find that, even in the best ones, either the romance is not credible or the suspense is weak. This one worked for me. The heroine was strong and interesting, the hero was strong and interesting and, together, they made sense to me. Add to that that I didn’t figure out who the bad guy was until just before the reveal, and I would give it a B also. (And, even better, I already purchased the second title in the series.)

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  6. Jayne
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 18:56:49

    I kind of like that I didn’t figure out who the killer was as soon as he was introduced into the story. Ms. Parrish did a good job of presenting a selection of possible people but keeping me guessing until the end.

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  7. Leslie Parrish
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 19:26:01

    Jayne, thanks so much for the great review–I’m so glad you liked Fade To Black. Also glad you didn’t find it too violent, as I know that issue has worried some romantic-suspense readers.

    I really hope you’ll continue with the series…your Law & Order inspired question is absolutely something that was always in the back of my mind while writing these books and becomes more important through books 2 and 3.

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  8. Cindy
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 20:57:22

    @Jane

    I know what you mean except for the fact I’ve been seeing bits and pieces of original Star Trek in real life over the past few years, so my mind’s been rather open. And of course, you do hear more and more sick stuff that happens with it’s origins online….

    I too loved that I was kept guessing. Usually in romantic suspense or mystery, I figure it out so early on that the fun is gone…the way he selected his victims made sense to me in the grand scheme of things. And this is looking like a pattern in romantic suspense to me.

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  9. Mora
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 23:34:26

    I enjoyed Fade to Black and have the next one on my TBR pile. This was a really refreshing read. No characters who turn TSTL halfway through the book in order to advance the plot. A hero who is strong and masculine without being domineering or an ass. An intelligent heroine who is actually intelligent. I would have liked a little more romance and a little less suspense, but that’s just my personal taste, not any failing on the book’s part.

    I even liked the minor characters who were introduced.

    It’s a really solid, well-written book.

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  10. Jayne
    Aug 06, 2009 @ 01:51:53

    your Law & Order inspired question is absolutely something that was always in the back of my mind while writing these books and becomes more important through books 2 and 3.

    Ah-ha! Okay, I’ll have to watch for this.

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  11. Joyce D
    Aug 06, 2009 @ 09:06:50

    I enjoyed the book as well, and was delighted that I didn’t figure out who the villain was until just before the reveal as well. To me, that’s the key to a good rom-susp or mystery novel.

    I have the next book on my Kindle.

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  12. Paula R.
    Aug 06, 2009 @ 10:45:26

    Hello Jayne, I really loved the write up on F@B. I loved that book and I think that Les did a wonderful job with the plot, pacing and romance between both Dean and Stacey. She had me guessing about who The Reaper could be as well, and I thought I had him, but I dismissed him for someone else…I had a running list, and when I found out who it was, like you, I went back over his “profile” and saw the clues. The only thing I worried about was the fact that the story written could very well happen in real life, but I don’t stress over it…I really hadn’t thought about it until reading your review…great question at the end of the review, btw…I can’t wait to get my hands on the next two books in the series…

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

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