Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last To Die - Kate Brady

Last To Die
Kate Brady
Grand Central/Forever

Romantic Suspense

This novel – not for the squeamish – starts out with a lot of promise. The first scenes are of a faceless killer stalking the first victim at a carnival. The murder is violent and just plain creepy. In my opinion, that’s a great beginning, and it sets the bar pretty high. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn’t quite live up to it.

Sgt. Dani Cole just lost her father, a dirty cop who shot himself in the bedroom next door to hers. She’s dealing with his death, their not-very-happy past, and the fact that many members of the force simply assume that since her dad was in bed with the local crime boss, she’ll follow in his footsteps. All that fades to background when she’s called the scene of the carnival murder. The dead woman, who was all of 18 years old, was a former prostitute who was getting her life back on track. Dani knew her and had tried to help her, so the death hits Dani hard.

As part of the investigation, Dani makes some provocative statements to the press, calling the victim “innocent” and the killer a “monster.” This enrages the killer, as planned, who begins leaving gruesome notes for Dani. It quickly escalates to the killer trashing Dani’s house and poisoning her beloved dog. Just when she needs someone to lean on, Mitch Sheridan appears on the scene. They had a summer fling after high school, until Dani pushed him away and went on with her life. Mitch went on to become a globetrotting photojournalist. He’s back in town for a show of his work. Events bring the two together during the investigation.

I have to say that a teenaged summer fling that happened eighteen years ago does not seem like the lynchpin of these characters’ lives. There’s so much water under the bridge for both of them that it seems unlikely to me that they’d each still be carrying such a torch that they’d simply pick up where they left off. That aside, the death of Sheridan’s mentor and father figure makes it seem logical that he would want to be involved in the investigation.

The first half of the book zips along at a great pace with several possible killers lurking around the edges. The killer is unmasked at about the halfway point of the story, and the motive explained shortly after that. There’s another Big Reveal that’s left until closer to the end, but that’s become obvious long before we get there. I wonder if it would have worked better if the readers knew the identity of the killer from the start, and watched the build-up while having that information. Or maybe that’s why I’m not a writer!

This novel is related to a previous novel by the same author, but, not having read the first, I can say that this works just fine as a standalone. A character from the previous novel appears at one point, but is really just a peripheral character, so no prior knowledge is needed. This novel started strong and held my interest throughout the first half. After that, I felt like major plot points were telegraphed far in advance of being revealed, so the ending really fell flat for me. I do like her writing style, though, and I’m interested enough to give another one of her books a try.

Rating: 6 ½
September 2010
ISBN# 978-0-446-54153-4 (paperback)


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