Author: Kate Brady
Read copy: eBook
Published: July 1, 2009
Killer Chevy Bankes is a master of disguise, and just paroled, he's coming after the woman who sent him to jail, the beautiful antiques expert Beth Denison. A set of antique dolls brings Beth into his sight, and inspire Chevy's disturbing crimes as he draws closer to Beth and her young daughter. Chevy sends the dolls to Beth one-by-one and she soon realizes that these antiques carry the same marks as his victims, signaling that the final piece in his collection will be for her.
Neil Sheridan gave up his FBI shield five years ago, but his best friend Rick, a cop, pulls him in as a consultant on a case involving a serial killer who is eerily similar to a murderer Neil encountered in the past. The investigation leads Neil to Beth's doorstep, and he is certain she isn't telling him the truth. Neil is the only one who can get through Beth's defenses and, as they grow closer, discover the secrets that Beth is hiding about her fateful night with Chevy.
This was one heck of a book. It had everything I look for in a thriller.
Beth Denison's world falls apart (again). Chevy Bankes, the man who "let her get away" seven years ago is out of prison and is holding a grudge. Starting in Seattle, he's killing women, sending Beth dolls as testimony of his crimes. Moving closer to her with each kill.
Neil Sheridan, former FBI, is called on board when the Seattle murder rings enough bells to be similar to a case Neil'd been working on nine years prior. He'd shot the murderer then, but with each case more and more doubts arise. Did he get the wrong man?
Beth Denison seems to hold the main clue. Unfortunately, the woman won't cooperate and it's up to Neil to make her see the light. As Chevy slowly draws near, Beth and Neil have to work together, revealing dark secrets and painful pasts in hope of catching him.
Okay, so the summary sucks, but the book was wonderful. The suspense held from start to finish, slowly turning this romantic suspense novel into a true thriller.
The killer's identity is known from the first page, but that sure doesn't kill the suspense. Because with Chevy Banks the author created a wonderfully rounded character, twisted and creepy, yes, but also incredibly intelligent and resourceful, with a terrible childhood experience that shaped him into the strapping guy (notice the sarcasm) he is today. At times the reader finds it hard not to feel compassion toward him, which makes it for an even more exciting ride.
The other two leading characters (yes, you could call this one a threesome with the villain sharing equal on-screen time as the two leads) are greatly developped as well. Beth with her inner-strength, fueled by fear for her daughter, fear for her secret to be exposed, and bitter anger for what happened seven years ago, is wonderful. Though she may appear inconsistent at times, going from being strong, tough-as-nails, not needing anyone to a clingy, cowering mess of a woman, it still is consistent with what happened to her and the profile of abuse she's been through. She truly was a remarkable character.
Neil Sheridan is definitely on my top-heroes list. Scarred in and out, jaded and with his fuck-the-world attitude he seemed quite unlikely to slay Beth's dragons at first with all his doubts as to what side she was on. But as soon as she opened up, bam, he slapped his figurative armor on, pulled his figurative steed out of the figurative stable, and he was on a roll.
I loved the fact Ms. Brady didn't make him your regular knight in shining armor, the first time we meet him he's dead-drunk, fondling a woman who's name he doesn't know. Oh, he's a gem all right. But thanks to his friend and his deep-buried honor to see things through, to avenge the girl (first murdered girl) he presumably failed, he bounces back and shows us why he'd been the best in the Bureau.
And when he finally reveals his secret, the hints of which are sprinkled throughout the story, it's utterly heartbreaking and it justifies everything he's said or done and explains his dogged determination to do his damnedest to protect Beth and her daughter, Abby.
There was a line, something his former colleague said to him, in the book that pretty much summed it all up. Nine years ago the Bureau lost one of its best agents, but now, after all is finished, after all the demons (Neil's and Beth's) are slain, the Bureau might get its agent back. The author wrote in much better, though.
The romance was wonderfully subtle. Just a few heated kisses, bare hints to anything more, yet utterly "in character", consistent with the two characters. Anything more and the whole thing would go to posh. Kudos to the author for knowing how to maintain that fragile balance. Really masterfully executed.
What I loved most, though, was the sick little mouse-and-cat game between Chevy and the good guys. He was always a step ahead of everyone, almost as if he read their minds, knew what they'd do and anticipate them all. It was twisted, but it was marvelous to read, trying to guess what he'd do next, what plan he's devised. And to finally learn just who the heck "Jenny" was. We did, and let me tell you, I didn't see that one coming.
This was truly a wonderful debut novel. Major kudos to Kate Brady for thinking of this story and managing to keep it all in line. The characters were wonderful, the plot nicely-flowing, the suspense great...What more could you want. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
P.S. I can't wait for the next one.