Thursday, May 9, 2013

#24 (2013/CBR5) "The Last Victim" by Karen Robards

I've read a lot of Karen Robards because she writes romantic suspense, and romantic suspense is some of my favorite escapist literature. Feeling the need for some escape, and seeing that Robard's latest book was available at the library with no wait, I decided it was time to read it. I've usually liked most of Robard's contemporary stuff. However, when I read the blurb, I felt some premonition of doubt. The heroine, Dr. Charlotte Stone (Charlie), could see and sometimes communicate with ghosts. I've never been a fan of mixing ghosts into my romance novels. The romance requires enough suspension of disbelief as it is, so when you throw ghosts into the mix, it's a little too much for me. But since Robards had been pretty grounded in the past, I hoped the ghosts bit would just be a small part of the story that I could mostly ignore. That turned out to be wishful thinking.

Charlie is 32 years old, a psychiatrist studying the minds of serial killers, and the only survivor of "The Boardwalk" serial killer who terrorized families and young teenage women sixteen years before. When the Boardwalk serial killer seemingly strikes again, FBI agent Tony Bartoli gets in touch with Charlie to help him find the killer before he kills anyone else. So far, the set up is practically a copy of most of the other books Robards has written,

Part of me wants to give credit to Robards for (kind of) breaking out of her mold here because Charlie doesn't fall in love with the FBI agent. Instead she falls in love with the ghost of the serial killer she'd been working with right before he was stabbed and killed in prison (Michael Garland). You see, Charlie has the ability to sometimes see the souls of the recently, violently deceased for about a week after they die. It's like the ghosts have to figure out where they are and what has happened to them before they can pass on to wherever they are going. The ghosts usually attach to something they know or was near them at their death. Garland attaches himself to Charlie, and they start to grow on each other.

I almost could have accepted this story because Garland is incredibly hot for a ghost and actually quite nice for a convicted serial killer. But Robards doesn't give me any kind of closure, breaking all the rules of true romance novels. There is a sequel, and very possibly more than one. Sure, they found out who the killer was, but I never really cared about that. The killer is just there to put the heroine in enough danger that she needs the hero around to save her. Instead, Robards  keeps the question of how Charlie can be with the man she really cares about when he's dead--alive until the next book. And Tony Bartoli apparently hangs around to complete an annoying love triangle. I'm pretty sure the next book is going to be about how Garland is actually innocent of the serial killing bit because Charlie can like bad boys, but loving a serial killer would be pushing it a little too far--even if he is a ghost and can't hurt anyone anymore. To make up for the lack of closure, there was plenty of bloody killing, especially of teenage girls, which started to wear on me. The body count was pretty high and seemed to be never ending. In addition, the first bit of the next book was at the end of this one, and it starts out with a young woman running away from some guy trying to kill her. I don't know if I can handle any more of that just to see if the author is able to bring a dead guy back to life for her heroine.

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