Maximum Security, by Tracy Montoya

>> Wednesday, March 15, 2006

book cover

Seems I was feeling a bit tired of straight romance, because Harlequin Intrigue's Maximum Security, by Tracy Montoya is the second straight romantic suspense I read.

She was the sole survivor of the deadly game of a serial killer—a man who'd ensnared women and eluded police for far too long. And since her daring escape from his clutches, ex-cop and bestselling crime author Maggie Reyes had remained locked in her beach house, paralyzed with fear until "the Surgeon" was caught.

Then FBI agent Billy Corrigan came to her, demanding her help in the hunt for a killer that wasn't just a job—it was personal….
It's books like this one that are hardest to blog about. With very good and very bad books, the reviews pretty much write themselves, because I just have piles of things to say about why they were so good or why they were so bad. But with this one, which was a C+, only slightly better than average, it's hard to come up with reasons for that averageness!

The suspense part of the Romantic Suspense here is a serial killer case. Eighteen months earlier, former cop and true-crime writer Maggie Reyes became the focus of the serial killer known as The Surgeon. He captured her and tortured her until she was able to escape him (we're never told exactly how). Knowing that he wouldn't give up, Maggie ran away to a friend's house in Monterey and hid there with a false identity the FBI helped her get. By the time the story starts, Maggie has become agoraphobic and fears she's losing her mind. When she realizes the Surgeon has discovered where she is and is coming to get her, Maggie fears the police won't believe her.

But even if they don't, Billy Corrigan does believe her. His sister Jenna was one of the Surgeon's first victims, and he wants revenge. Billy works for the FBI, but for the Computer Crimes division, so he's risking his career by butting in in this particular investigation. He doesn't care, however, and tracks down Maggie to ask for her help (though I never understood exactly why he thought it was worth the trouble to track her down).

Maggie doesn't welcome Billy's requests with open arms, but they soon become friends, especially when it becomes clearer and clearer that the Surgeon is there and stalking Maggie (and killing other women in town). And since Billy has a friend in the Monterey Police Department, he manages to involve himself in the investigation, in which Maggie is assisting, as well.

I thought the case had pretty interesting bones. There was some promise there, but I wasn't too crazy about the execution. The main thing that bothered me was that the investigation felt a bit off. I don't know if I can really pinpoint what it was that made me feel this way, and of course, I know nothing about the proper procedures, no more than what I've read and seen in movies or TV shows. All I know is that when I read about serial killer investigations in, say, the In Death books, it feels as if the investigators are taking all the precautions and exploring all the directions I can think of (and some I never even imagine).

Here, OTOH. it felt as if, for some reason, they were all going, as we say in Spanish, "a la guerra con un tenedor": off to war armed only with a fork. The resources devoted to this investigation were piddling, and it seemed to me the cops of the Monterey Police Department were the most inept ever. That, or the killer had superhuman powers. The guy slipped by hordes of police without even trying and knocked them out in droves without ever being seen!

The romance didn't work all that well for me, either. I've writen this about too many Harlequin Intrigue books lately: the characters were likeable enough, but their relationship just didn't capture my attention. And then there was the fact that I just didn't see any chemistry there. Don't know why, but the vibe I got from Maggie and Billy was almost mother-son, not romantic.

I guess Montoya does show some promise, and I'd probably pick up something else by her in the future, but Maximum Security just didn't hit the spot.


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