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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Author:  Karen Robards 
Plot Type:  Romantic Suspense with a Paranormal Twist and a Touch of Horror
Publisher and Titles:  Ballantine   
          The Last Victim (8/2012)
          The Last Kiss Goodbye (8/2013)
          Her Last Whisper (8/2014)
          The Last Time I Saw Her (8/2015)

     The story takes place in the contemporary human world with a heroine who is a psychiatrist specializing in the study of serial killers. Dr. Charlotte (Charlie) Stone has a very compelling reason for her life work: She herself was nearly a victim of a serial killer when she was seventeen. Now, fifteen years later, Charlie spends her time deep in research as she interviews serial killers and catalogues her work. At this point, she is one of the world’s leading experts in her field.

     Charlie tries very hard to lead a normal, if isolated, life. The Boardwalk Killer—the one from whom she had her narrow escape—has never been caught, and deep down she worries that he will somehow find her. Charlie has another, weirder, problem as well. Since she was four years old, she has been able to see the ghosts of the recently deceased—particularly those who die violently. She can't speak with them, but they sometimes hang around her for several days after their deaths. 

                  NOVEL 1:  The Last Victim                  
     As the story opens, Charlie is working at a prison in Virginia when the FBI asks for her assistance in solving a serial killer case in which the murderer is using the same M.O. as the Boardwalk Killer used fifteen years ago. Just as Charlie is refusing the agents’ request, Michael Garland, the prisoner Charlotte just finished interviewing, is stabbed and dies horribly as Charlie attempts to staunch his fatal chest wound. Charlotte knows that Garland’s ghost will be hanging around the prison for awhile, so she agrees to go along with the FBI agents just to get away until the coast is clear. Unfortunately for Charlie, Garland’s ghost has attached itself to her, and he intends to make her life miserable—murmuring salacious comments in her ear, making veiled threats, and stalking her everywhere. The problem is, Charlie is attracted to Garland, and he obviously has some feelings for her as well.

     In the meantime, Charlie works with handsome FBI agent Tony Bartoli and his team to solve a grisly murder and try to save the life of a kidnapped teenage girl. When Charlie visits the crime scene, the ghosts of the victims give her clues and Tony soon realizes that she has psychic abilities. Garland keeps popping up with his sarcastic and suggestive remarks, keeping Charlie constantly off balance. The plot is divided between the ghostly relationship and the search for the killer. There is also a mild budding friendship/romance between Charlie and Tony, but that one doesn't go beyond a few kisses in this book, mainly because Garland keeps butting in. The Charlie-Garland relationship, on the other hand, gets fiery as the couple learns just how much pleasure they can enjoy during some dreamy scenes of astral projection.

     This is basically a police procedural thriller plot with a definite horror edge. The murder victims are graphically described, and the ghosts that Charlie sees are covered with bloody, gaping wounds. Charlie spends most of the story in a state of perpetual nausea (accompanied by vomiting), and Garland's surprise pop-in appearances turn her into a nervous wreck. The identity of the killer is tough to predict because we aren't given all the facts until the after-capture wrap-up scene in which Tony lays out all the evidence. The ending feels contrived because so many details and events are forced into an implausible resolution.

     The entire premise of this bookthat a psychiatrist who has spent her entire career studying psychopaths and who has herself been a victim of onewould ever fall head over heels for a serial killer is absurd. Of course, Garland swears that he is innocent, but doesn't every psychopath make that claim? And shouldn't Charlie know better? This is, after all, what she does for a living. Charlie has only Garland's word that he is innocent. She has read all of Garland's trial transcripts, and she knows that solid DNA evidence was used to get the conviction that put him on Death Row. That transcript details how he tortured and killed seven women. With all of this evidence and with all of her years of training, though, all Charlie can think about is how hot Garland is. Give me a break! I couldn't really enjoy the story because I was so appalled at Charlie's behavior. She may be a professional, but she comes across as unstable, naive, and weak. And Garland may be hot, but he is just plain creepy throughout most of the book.

     I'm sure that Robards will clean up Garland's past in the next book, but that doesn't save this one. The thriller part of the plot is fine, and the idea of the victim studying those who victimized her is great. I just can't get past the concept of having a convicted serial killer as the primary love interest. Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                    NOVEL 2: The Last Kiss Goodbye                    
     Dr. Charlotte "Charlie" Stone has dedicated her career as a psychiatrist to exploring the darkest territory of all: the hearts and minds of serial killers. It's a job she's uniquely suited for, thanks to the secret talent that gives her an uncanny edge—Charlie can see dead people, whose tormented spirits cry out to her for the justice only she can provide. This blessing—or curse—gives Charlie the power to hunt down and catch madmen and murderers. It's also turned her love life upside down by drawing her into a hopelessly passionate relationship with the lingering ghost of charismatic bad boy Michael Garland.

     But there's little time for romance with her supernatural suitor when murder comes pounding at Charlie's door in the form of a terrified young woman fleeing a homicidal maniac. Saving her life places Charlie squarely in the cross-hairs of a sadistic predator nicknamed "the Gingerbread Man," notorious for manipulating his victims like pawns in a deadly chess game. And now the queen this psychopath's bent on capturing is Charlie. Refusal to play will only put more innocent lives in danger. Matching wits with this cunningly twisted opponent will require all of Charlie's training and expert skills. But even with her devilish "guardian angel"—not to mention her favorite flesh-and-blood Fed, Tony Bartoliwatching her beautiful back, the Gingerbread Man's horrifying grin might be the last thing Charlie ever sees.

     Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                    NOVEL 3: Her Last Whisper                    
     Madness and murder invaded Dr. Charlotte Stone’s life when she was just a girl—and made her a woman determined to save others from the horror she survived. An expert in the psychology of serial killers, she’s faced down more than her share of human monsters. But Charlie can also communicate with the spirits of those who die violently, an extrasensory skill that has helped the FBI bring lethal predators to justice. Now, after narrowly escaping death a second time, Charlie’s ready to step away from the edge...before her luck runs out.

     Too bad Charlie is too dedicated for her own good—and too devoted to federal agent Tony Bartoli to say no when he asks her to ride shotgun on yet another risky mission. Of course, she already has her hands full with Michael Garland: the handsome, roguish ghost with whom she’s hopelessly in love—a spirit who depends on Charlie to keep him from slipping forever into the dark side of the afterlife. But in the mortal world, beautiful single women are vanishing from Las Vegas hotels at night. All signs indicate that a psychopath is on the prowl in Sin City, and Bartoli’s FBI colleague Lena Kaminsky has reason to fear that her missing sister may be just the killer’s type.

     In a town full of fast players and few rules, flushing out a smooth-talking stalker like the Cinderella Killer might be a loser’s game. But for Charlie, the only way to cage her quarry is to plunge back into the homicidal hell she vowed to leave behind—and may not leave alive.

     Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

                    NOVEL 4: The Last Time I Saw Her                    
     In this world, Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone skillfully probes the twisted minds of incarcerated serial killers to better understand what makes them tick, and to help nab those who remain at large. But in the next world, Charlotte’s ghostly lover—convicted killer Michael Garland—is facing death yet again. It seem the only way Charlie can snatch Michael from the jaws of oblivion is by proving his innocence. And this dead man’s dead ringer may just be the key.

     A mysterious stranger has turned up in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and Charlie is shocked to realize he could be Michael Garland’s identical twin. But she suspects the resemblance is only skin deep—and that behind the handsome face may lurk the perverse mind of a killer. While using all her keen profiling gifts, Charlie risks her life to discover the shocking secret that will clear Michael’s name.

     Then a breakout at Wallens Ridge State Prison forces Charlie to contend with a sudden swarm of psychopaths bent on spilling blood. No one has a better chance of tracking down the deadly fugitives than Charlie—unless the rampaging killers manage to find her first and make this case her last. But Michael will move heaven and hell—and even make a devil’s bargain—for the chance to save Charlie’s life, and feel her touch once more...if only for the final time.

     Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can read or listen to an excerpt by clicking on either the cover art for print or the "Listen" icon for audio.

1 comment:

  1. I am with you but I will probably still read the next book