Author: Karen Robards
My Copy: ARC via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program
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Synopsis: Dr. Charlotte Stone sees what others do not.
A sought-after expert in criminal pathology, Charlie regularly sits face-to-face with madmen. Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes, Charlie desires little else from life-no doubt because when she was sixteen, she herself survived a serial killer's bloodbath: A man butchered the family of Charlie's best friend, Holly, then left the girl's body on a seaside boardwalk one week later.
Because of the information Charlie gave police, the Boardwalk Killer went underground. She kept to herself her eerie postmortem visions of Holly and her mother. And even years later, knowing her contact with ghosts might undermine her credibility as a psychological expert, Charlie tells no one about the visits she gets from the spirit world.
Now all-too-handsome FBI agent Tony Bartoli is telling Charlie that a teenage girl is missing, her family slaughtered. Bartoli suspects that after fifteen years, the Boardwalk Killer-or a sick copycat with his M.O.-is back. Time is running short for an innocent, kidnapped girl, and Bartoli pleads for Charlie's help.
This is the one case Charlie shouldn't go near. But she also knows that she may be the one person in the world who can stop this vicious killer. For Charlie-whose good looks disguise a world of hurt, vulnerability, and potent psychic gifts-a frantic hunt for a madman soon becomes a complex test of cunning, passions, and secrets. Aiding Dr. Stone on her quest to catch a madman is a ghostly presence with bad intentions: the fiery spirit of seductive bad boy Michael Garland who refuses to be ignored, though in his cat and mouse game they may both lose their hearts.
Dr. Charlotte Stone sees what others do not. And she sees the Boardwalk Killer coming for her.
Doctor Charlotte “Charlie” Stone is expert in criminal pathology, but she hides a secret. Fifteen years ago, she was the sole survivor of the Boardwalk Killer’s attack and afterwards discovered she could see dead people. She keeps the knowledge of seeing the ghosts of victims to herself and instead focuses on what makes these monsters commit crimes. Charlie reluctantly agrees to assist the FBI in finding a teenage girl who may be the latest Boardwalk Killer’s victim or that of a copycat. There’s just a slight problem. Before she can dedicate herself to the case she needs to get rid of a pesky ghost. Michael Garland, a convicted serial killer won’t accept he’s dead and refuses to leave Charlie alone. Will Charlie be able to guide Garland towards the light before the Boardwalk Killer strikes again or will she become his next victim?
The plot is well developed and the writing is good. A few items Robards touches upon were rehashed, but it doesn’t necessarily detract from the story. There are few humorous moments and I particularly enjoyed the interaction between Garland and Charlie; primarily the scenes with Charlie telling him to go towards the light and Garland responding there is no light. Garland also has a habit of appearing in opportune moments and I’m not sure if his timing was deliberate or accidental.
As far as characterization, Robards gives us intriguing characters. When The Last Victim begins, we see Charlie with Garland and she’s administrating the Rorschach test and he’s pretty scary. You can feel Charlie’s unease when she’s in the same room as Garland, but at the same time you get the feeling he’s playing the role he’s been cast in. The FBI agents were interesting and I liked the dynamic between Crane and Kaminsky. The one agent that captured my interest was Tony Bartoli and he’s attracted to Charlie. She realizes that what they have can be maybe turn into something more, but she holds back because of Garland. It will be interesting to see what role Bartoli and the rest of the agents play in future books. You might be asking about our heroine, Charlie and her character development. Robards gives us enough information about her background and past and while we don’t get a detailed dossier as to why she decided to study serial killers, we get enough information as to what makes them interesting to her and why she’s pursuing that type of research.
I have to take a moment to address the issue of Garland and Charlie. I understand the readers who thought this was an ick factor because I was a little bothered when I saw Garland making the moves and Charlie responding. I know we’re not supposed to be attracted to these monsters, but Robards sets up an interesting concept. What if Garland was innocent? Yes he’s a bad boy and he admits to having a troubled past, one that began in his youth, but what if he’s not the killer who he claims to be? I do wonder why Garland is attached to Charlie. Even after I finished reading, I kept questioning how in the world Charlie could be with Garland since he’s dead. I confess to being a little disappointed because I was cheering on Charlie and Tony.
In terms of the overall mystery of who the killer is, let’s just say I wasn’t expecting it to wrap up nicely as it did. Parts of Charlie’s past collide with the present and when it comes together I was surprised. Robards did an excellent job putting her own spin on a tired formula. I know some people might be put off with the paranormal aspect, but it doesn’t play heavily into the book.
I enjoyed Karen Robards’ The Last Victim. I’m looking forward to The Last Kiss Goodbye and am interested to see how this series progresses especially with regards to Garland.
I have an extra paperback copy of The Last Victim, courtesy of Random House. US/Canada only due to shipping costs, but don’t worry international folks-there’s an international giveaway coming in a few days.
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