A Whisper in the Dark, by Linda Castillo

>> Tuesday, August 21, 2007

TITLE: A Whisper in the Dark
AUTHOR: Linda Castillo

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Contemporary New Orleans
TYPE: Romantic Suspense

REASON FOR READING: I've liked all the books that Castillo that I've read. Her usually very dark suspense plots feel fresh, original and well developed, and they are well integrated with the very nice romances.

Secrets can be deadly...

Until now, no one has suspected the truth about down-to-earth bookseller Julia Wainwright. But the arrival of six threatening letters indicates someone has discovered her secret-and wants her to pay for her sins…

Ever since he accidentally killed a fellow officer, ex-cop John Merrick has been tormented by the mistakes of his past. Now, called upon to repay a favor, he will do anything to keep Julia Wainwright safe. To do that, though, he'll first have to figure out what the gypsy-eyed beauty is hiding…

As the threats escalate, Julia and John must find a way to trust each other. Because if they don't, a twisted stalker will make sure all the gruesome things he's promised will come true…
THE PLOT: Bookstore owner Julia Wainwright has been receiving some scary anonymous notes relating to an erotica book she wrote under a pseudonym, but though she's getting more and more creeped out by them, she doesn't want to go to the police. Her father is a well-known religious leader, so she'd rather not embarrass him. But when the latest note is delivered directly to her store, proving that the author has her real address, her sister overrules her protests and goes to her dad.

Benjamin Wainwright wants his daughter protected, and he asks a former cop he knows for help. John Merrick doesn't feel at all ready for the assignment. He's still suffering from the aftermath of a tragic incident in Chicago, where he accidentally shot and killed a fellow cop who was undercover. John is still fighting the guilt and horror of what he did, however unwittingly, and sinking deeper into a bottle every day. He can't resist Benjamin's pleas, though, nor the very attractive Julia, whom he quickly realizes is under a very dangerous threat.

MY THOUGHTS: Did you see what I wrote above, in my "reasons for reading", about why I've liked all the Castillo books I've read? Well, for AWITD, you can scratch the "fresh and original" part. This is a very humdrum woman in peril plot. Heroine threatened by a stalker? Check. The stalker is after her because she secretly wrote a volume of erotica and he thinks she's a slut and a sinner? I've read this a thousand times. The hero is the ex cop hired to defend her? Couldn't be anything else. She chafes under every common-sense restriction he tries to place on her? Of course she does.

The one original bit is the incident in John's past and its consequences. The incipient alcoholism, the hoplophobia (fear of guns), etc. John's issues are very well done and truly heartbreaking. The problem was that while I definitely did sympathise with him and felt very sorry for what he was going through, through no fault of his own, the fact remained that he was in no shape to protect Julia. It's clear right from the moment he arrives on the scene that the stalker is getting truly dangerous, so he should just have taken a step aside and hired someone else. That he was able to save Julia, in the end, was just a product of the plot playing out that way, but he couldn't have counted on that.

And something else: the drinking must have addled his brain, from the way he just assumed he had the culprit there around the middle of the book. They had just the flimsiest evidence pointing to this guy and what does he do? He basically lifts every protection on Julia. Very iffy reasoning.

The romance wasn't too interesting, either. All I saw there was lust and an old crush on Julia's part. Not particularly good.

MY GRADE: A C-. This one was competent, at best.


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