Dead Reckoning, by Linda Castillo

>> Thursday, May 17, 2007

TITLE: Dead Reckoning
AUTHOR: Linda Castillo

PAGES: 330

SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romantic Suspense

REASON FOR READING: I like Linda Castillo's brand of dark, dark romantic suspense.

There is a fine line between justice and revenge . . .

Assistant D.A. Kate Megason is about to prosecute the case of her career--a senseless double homicide caught on video. But before she can bring it to trial, someone starts sending her terrifying messages. Someone who obviously knows Kate's deep, dark secret...

Eleven years ago, Kate and her seventeen-year-old twin sister were brutalized and left for dead. Kate survived, but her sister was left brain damaged, her life destroyed--and the perpetrators were never caught.

Now, Kate needs the help of Frank Matrone--an investigator with his own shadowy secrets--to help her discover whether the maniac she escaped all those years ago is the same madman taunting her now. If she and Frank don't succeed, Kate's violent past will likely be repeated.Only this time she may not survive ...
THE PLOT:Kate Megason is an Assistant D.A., and devoted to her job. Her boss has just assigned her an important case that could really make her career. It's one that seems open-and-shut but which will need to be meticulously prosecuted (it's an election year, after all), and Kate is very definitely up to it.

The only fly in the ointment is one of the investigators assigned to her team, former cop Frank Matrone. The man just doesn't seem to have a sense of responsibility. He arrives late for his very first meeting, and keeps on doing it. Plus, Kate suspects that he's got some kind of problem with substance abuse.

Frank is having trouble, and he does have a problem with alcohol and prescription drugs It's a result of being caught in a bombing while working in Jerusalem. Frank was badly injured (thus the prescription drugs), but his fiancée was even unluckier, and died (thus the alcohol).

But even with these issues, Frank's cop instincts are untouched, and he immediately zeroes in on certain characteristics that make him suspect the crime they'll be prosecuting isn't as straightforward as it seems.

We readers know it isn't, as we see scenes from the POV of the villains right from the start. These people are determined to keep their secrets secret (though what they are, we don't know), and so they decide to make sure the prosecutor in charge is distracted. And since Kate has a really horrible episode in her past, the way to do this is easy.

MY THOUGHTS: This is not a happy, cheerful book. For starters, the protagonists have Issues, with a capital I.

Kate is a rape survivor. Eleven years later, when she was a teenager, she and her sister were brutally raped and left for dead. Kate recovered, by her twin was left brain damaged. Even after extensive therapy, Kate is still traumatized, and has devoted all her life to her job. She just has no personal life whatsoever, and is so focused and demanding at work that the cops have taken to call her Megabitch (*sigh* So typical. In a man, exactly the same behaviour would be admired, but because she's a woman, she's demonized. I wanted to hit those chauvinistic pigs). Furthermore, Kate has to deal with guilt over having been the one to convince her sister to sneak out of their house, and has to deal with the fact that her mother blames her for it. It's a wonder she doesn't go to pieces even more when she starts getting stalked by someone claiming to be the man who raped her all those years earlier!

Frank is as conflicted as she is. He's still got to deal with the grief for his girlfriend, as well as with his addictions and the loss of the job he loved. For a good part of the book, he's barely functional.

And then there's the crime Kate is preparing to prosecute. It's a horrific, senseless double murder, and even more sinister than it seems.

In addition to not being happy and cheerful, this book is often difficult to read. Some scenes were extremely hard to read, like the first, which really conveys the horror of the double murder, or a flashback to when Kate and her sister were raped. That one was especially harrowing to read, even though it wasn't excessively graphic. But I understood why they were there. It's not at all about titillation or shock value, simply a way to really bring home the brutality of the villains and exactly what Kate has come to overcome.

What makes the book work is that for all its darkness, it's not depressing. In fact, I'm left with a feeling of hope for the future. Castillo doesn't take the easy way out with Kate and Frank's problems and simply make them disappear. They still have issues to deal with at the end of the book; they haven't magically gone away. But they overcome a lot throughout the book, and I was left with the feeling in the end that both were on the right track, and that being together would help both be happier, healthier persons.

Considering what's going on, it's amazing that Castillo was able to create a romance that works as well as this one does... a pretty hot one, too. But it does, and Kate and Frank's increasing feelings for each other never feel inappropriate or out of place. That's one of the reasons I so like Castillo's books: she's very, very good at combining fully realized characters, strong romance and intriguing suspense.

MY GRADE: B+ for this one. Castillo doesn't disappoint.

NOTES: That style of cover makes me think Linda Howard, for some reason. And of course, Castillo's first name helps...


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