Senseless, by Mary Burton

>> Saturday, November 05, 2011

TITLE: Senseless
AUTHOR: Mary Burton

PAGES: 412

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: Followed by Merciless

Every serial killer knows...

The vicious burns scarring the victims' flesh reveal the agony of their last moments. Each woman was branded with a star, then stabbed through the heart. With every death, a vengeful killer finds a brief, blissful moment of calm. But soon it's time for the bloodshed to start again.

The perfect time...

Ten years ago, Eva Rayburn and her sorority sisters were celebrating the end of the school year. That party turned into a nightmare Eva can't forget. Now she's trying to start over in her Virginia hometown, but a new nightmare has begun. Every victim is linked to her. And Detective Deacon Garrison isn't sure whether this mysterious woman needs investigating - or protecting.

To make his mark

Only Eva's death will bring peace. Only her tortured screams will silence the rage that has been building for ten long years. Because what started that night at the sorority can never be stopped - not until the last victim has been marked for death.
The marketers got me with this one. I was waiting in line at the library when I spotted this book on a display case. The UK cover (above) looks very much like those of Karen Rose's books (see here), so at first I thought it was one of hers. And then I noticed it wasn't, but it had a prominent sticker on the cover reading: "A Perfect Thrill for Fans of KAREN ROSE, or your money back". I do like Karen Rose, so I grabbed it.

Anyway, onto the book itself. During her first year in university, Eva Raybourn experienced a horrible nightmare. She was raped and then branded with her own pendant by her attacker. She remembers nothing after that until she and the rapist were dragged out of the burning remains of the house where she lived with her sorority sisters. Her attacker was dead, not in the fire, but hit with a fireplace poker. Unfortunately for Eva, he was a spoiled rich boy, and his father was determined to protect his reputation. The man pressured and threatened, getting the police to charge her, Eva's friends to say she and the rapist had been lovers and Eva herself to resign herself to her fate. She was sent to jail for 10 years.

Now newly out of prison, Eva wants nothing more than to rebuild her life and forget about the past. It's always difficult for an ex-con, but she's managed to find a few jobs. One of them is at a homeless shelter, and that is where trouble finds her again. When she arrives to work one night, she finds the place on fire. All the residents manage to get out ok, but the police find a dead body just outside the house. And when it turns out the woman is one of Eva's former sorority sisters, and one who testified against her, and that she's been branded with the same shape as Eva was, it's clear someone's determined to revive the past.

I quite liked the first half of the book. Burton set up a story that interested me, and which did, in fact, remind me of what I like about Karen Rose's books. I wanted to know what had actually happened and I liked Eva. She had been the victim of a massive unjustice, but while that can often feel frustrating (why didn't she just do X??? I too often find myself asking), in this case, I could really understand what led everyone to behave as they did.

I also liked the way Burton was setting up the potential romance. Deacon Garrison is the detective investigating the case, and the connections between the murder and Eva's old case soon lead him to her. I liked that there was no insta-lusting, just a bit of a sense of connection, and that Garrison knows almost from the beginning that Eva had been railroaded.

But, unfortunately, the second half pretty much disintegrated. The romance ended up feeling completely out of the blue and perfunctory. It would have been better if there had been no sex at all here, just a realisation after all was finished that these two might like to get to know each other a bit better. And the mystery just got much too over-the-top. I guess we were still kind of in Karen Rose territory, but a bit like the last two Vartanian books, where I really disliked the mystery. Plus, the killer made no sense at all. The fact that this was a mad, psycho killer wasn't enough to provide a satisfying motivation, especially since there were a few too many psychos running around the pages. Oh, and no total closure, either. The main killer was found, but there was someone else helping them, and at the end, we're told... oh, we'll find them at some point. It felt like a bit "to be continued..." sign right there.




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