Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.
Granville, Georgia is plagued by a serial killer...Or is it? When reporter Lexie Nolan ran the story of several teenage girl gone missing, she was shut down, and almost lost her job, while the chief of police and all the prominent citizens claimed the missing teens were just runaways. Especially since they were from the “bad part of town”.
Well, the Ghoul, as some have dubbed the presumed serial killer, has struck again. This time kidnapping a girl from the bad part of town going to school in the good part of town. The police and the public can no longer hide from the truth...Or can they? Just to be sure, Lexie enlists the help of Aidan McConnell, a psychic investigator ran out of Savannah after a case gone bad, resulting in the death of a child. It’s tough getting him on board, but once he’s hooked, there’s no chance he won’t see this through.
But someone doesn’t want Lexie and Aidan poking around. Because something is obviously wrong in this quaint little town, something that just might put the serial killer to shame with its darkness and longevity. Because Granville reeks of dark secrets, and the serial killer just might expose them all.
Though this is categorized as romantic suspense, I’d say this is more along the lines of a thriller with some (rather strong) romantic undertones. It was dark, compelling, chilling, edgy, intriguing, a little sick (especially in that basement and clubhouse), and a lot twisted. I thought Ms. Parrish’s Black CATs trilogy was dark, but it has nothing on this book. Also, the Black CATs stories were sort of 50-50 on romance and suspense, while here the percentage was highly in favor of the suspense.
The driving force, at least for me, wasn’t the “less-exposed” romance, though it played a major role, bringing Lexie and Aidan together, binding them, creating a powerful team, it wasn’t the aforementioned two leads, it wasn’t even the twisted killer or the sick and dark “little town secret”, it was the strong, determined, unbreakable personality of the Ghoul’s latest victim, Yvonne “Vonnie” Jackson. Though a secondary character, relegated into the role of the victim, she was the glue that brought everything together, she was the catalyst for this story, and its true heart.
The reader gets to know the killer, observe her prison through her eyes, experiences everything as she experiences it, and has no choice but admire the strength of her character, her determination to get free no matter what, her stubborn refusal to let the villain win. And it is also her slight connection to Aidan that pulls him into the investigation, gets him to trust Lexie, makes him forget all his misgivings and self-doubt, and dive into the case head-on. Yes, the killer started it all by kidnapping her, but it was Vonnie that drove the story forward.
Ms. Kelly did an amazing job in creating such a realistic character and giving her the opportunity to (almost) outshine the leads. Despite everything, to me, this was more Vonnie’s story than anything else.
Not that I didn’t love the romance subplot. Far from it. The sparks between Lexie and Aidan flew from the get-go, the tension and attraction was almost palpable and it was just a matter of time before they both gave in. Their “psychic” connection gave their story a little otherworldly feel (and a little "explanation" to the rushed-in feeling, but still it retained an elusive believability. Marvelously done.
The same goes for the main suspense arc. The killer was deliciously twisted, a complete psycho with a sadistic streak a mile wide, but it was still a true pleasure to read, and the villain’s identity remained a secret until Ms. Kelly decided to reveal it, which was a nice respite from the usual suspense fare where the bad guy is obvious from the first chapter.
The “Hellfire Club” sub-sub-plot was sick and twisted as well, though the resolution was rather lacking, but maybe we haven’t seen the end of the Club just yet. Here’s hoping.
And now to the whole series stuff. Unlike many first-book-in-a-series books, this one wasn’t rife with world building and introductions of characters, but instead provided mere tidbits of the characters’ pasts and abilities, but that was enough to get to know them and whet the reader’s appetite for more. I’m already itching to read more about the EA investigative team and their abilities.
Lastly, despite the “darkness”, I don’t think this is a “mood book”, having to read it when the mood is just right. You can pick it up at any time, it’ll pull you in from the first page and won’t spit you out until the very end. Even when a scene was a bit too much to take and I wanted to put it down, I simply couldn’t. Something compelled me to keep reading, although the pacing was a bit slower on the re-read.
I also liked the short story in the end, about Aidan's first meeting Julia and getting “invited” into the Extrasensory Agents team.