Have You Seen Her?, by Karen Rose

>> Saturday, July 25, 2009

TITLE: Have You Seen Her?
AUTHOR: Karen Rose

PAGES: 499

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic suspense
SERIES: All of Rose's books are related to different degrees (see diagram here), but all but the last two stand alone fine (Have You Seen Her? does).

REASON FOR READING: Rose is one of the best romantic suspense authors out there.


One by one, the girls disappear from their beds at night. Each one is pretty, with long, dark hair. And each one is found brutally murdered.


Special Agent Steven Thatcher has sworn to find the serial killer preying on this small town. As the investigation pulls him one way, his family pulls him in another. A widower haunted by loss, he now worries about his son Brad slipping away. But there's a bright light in his life; his son's teacher, Jenna Marshall, has reached out to help. She's beautiful, kind, and considerate— and slowly, tentatively, she and Steven are starting to fall in love. But both have been hurt before— badly. And as the two try to find the courage to bare their souls, a murderer who has slain many looks for the real treasure he craves. He sets his traps. And waits. For Jenna . . .

This is quite an early Karen Rose. It's more of a typical romantic suspense than subsequent books, but it's still quite good and with plenty of glimmers of originality, as well as Rose's trademark excellent balance between suspense and romance.

We have a serial killer plot in a small town here. Special Agent Steven Thatcher is investigating the murders of several cheerleaders, while dealing with trouble at home. His eldest son has been doing badly at school, and single father Steven makes time in the midst of the investigation to meet with his chemistry teacher, Jenna Marshall. The chemistry (ha-ha) between them is immediately sizzling, and before long it's clear that Jenna might be in danger from the serial killer as well.

I enjoyed the characters most of all. They're all nicely complex and subtly drawn. Even the matchmaking auntie is well-done. She's not this motivation-free matchmaking monster, like so many secondary characters, who seem almost psychotic in their compulsion. Part of it is she wants Steven to be happy, yes, but also wants to go back to her own life, and can't in good conscience do so until Steven's situation is resolved (she's been living with them and taking care of the kids since S's wife died). The main characters are even better and unique. Steven, for instance, is quite religious, and while this is not really a big issue in the book, it's something that adds depth to him.

The suspense was all right, but unfortunately not as good as I'm used to from Rose. It was a bit frustrating, because the police felt a bit ineffectual, as if they weren't really taking all the logical steps and doing as much as they should have been doing. Usually Rose's investigations give me the same feeling as JD Robb's, that the police are smart, competent professionals. And as much as I enjoyed the romance, at times it felt as if Jenna was becoming a distraction to Steven and affecting his investigation.

All in all, though, Have You Seen Her? was well worth a read.



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