Monday, August 4, 2008

Review: Murder List by Julie Garwood

Title: Murder List
Series: Buchanan
Author: Julie Garwood
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 1, 2005
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345453832
ISBN-13: 9780345453839

When Chicago detective Alec Buchanan is offered a prime position with the FBI, it is the perfect opportunity to leave the Windy City and follow in his brothers’ footsteps to the top echelons of law enforcement. But first he must complete one last assignment (and one that he is not too happy about): acting as a glorified bodyguard to hotel heiress Regan Hamilton Madison. The gorgeous exec has become entangled in some potentially deadly business. Someone has e-mailed her a graphic crime-scene photo–and the victim is no stranger.

Regan suspects that the trouble started when she agreed to help a journalist friend expose a shady self-help guru who preys on lonely, vulnerable women. In fact, the smooth-as-an-oil-slick Dr. Lawrence Shields may be responsible for the death of one of his devotees, which was ruled a suicide. Hoping to find some damning evidence, Regan attends a Shields seminar.

At the gathering, the doctor persuades his guests to partake in an innocent little “cleansing” exercise. He asks them to make a list of the people who have hurt or deceived them over the years, posing the question: Would your world be a better place if these people ceased to exist? Treating the exercise as a game, Regan plays along. After ten minutes, Shields instructs the participants to bring their sheets of paper to the fireplace and throw them into the flames. But Regan misses this part of the program when she exits the room to take a call–and barely escapes a menacing individual in the parking lot.

The experience is all but forgotten–until the first person on Regan’s list turns up dead. Shock turns to horror when other bodies from the list start to surface, as a harrowing tango of desire and death is set into motion. Now brutal murders seem to stalk her every move–and a growing attraction to Alec may compromise her safety, while stirring up tender emotions she thought she could no longer feel. Yet as the danger intensifies and a serial killer circles ever closer, Regan must discover who has turned her private revenge fantasies into grisly reality.

My rating:

Hotel heiress Regan Madison life turns for the worst when she agrees to join her two best friends in a scheme to nail a self-named help guru that schemes lonely, depressed women in giving him their life savings. The three join his seminar in hopes of collecting proof against him, but things are never that simple.

The seminar‘s first exercise is to compile a so-called murder list, a list of people you want erased from your radar. Regan, thinking it might be fun, compiles the list.

What started as a joke, soon turns into grim reality as people on Regan‘s appear at the morgue, and she starts receiving disturbing photos and e-mails. It turns out Regan Madison has a stalker.

Her protection detail is assigned to Alec Buchanan, a Chicago cop about to switch to the FBI. It‘s his last operation for the Chicago P.D. and though he‘s not overly enthused about the bodyguard duty, his resentment doesn‘t last long.

I was disappointed with this book. The plot was all over the place as if Ms. Garwood couldn‘t decide whether she wanted to write a thriller, a romance, or something else entirely.

Don‘t get me wrong, the beginning was great and the general premise of a deranged man with a blood-thirsty demon inside him had lots of potential, but by the first few chapters the interlocking subplots turned the story into gumbo, and the deranged killer was forgotten as last year‘s snow.

By the middle of the book the plot took a head dive into an average romance between the two leads and the suspense disappeared entirely. And yes, the romance was average, because the two seemed more like good buddies than potential lovers, but for the one (and only) love scene spanning a few pages toward the end of the book.

In short, the main plot, of the deranged serial killer / stalker, was too far fetched to be believable with a huge deus ex machina at the end that just plain made me laugh. The romance was completely out there, and the subplots remained unexplored and unfinished.


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