August 2012, Romantic Suspense
Zebra, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 142012501X Part of a series
Per the FBI: “Serial murder is a relatively rare event, estimated to comprise less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year. However, there is a macabre interest in the topic that far exceeds its scope and has generated countless articles, books, and movies.” And you can add this poorly written and researched book to the mix. The reason that you are just getting this August release now is that it took me forever to read it. I started in September, and then put it down for over two months. Finally I just had bite the bullet and force myself to finish it.
Livvie Dugan’s sixth birthday didn’t start out well and ended horribly. First her younger brother Hague, attempted to blow out her candles. Then, even though Hague didn’t finish dinner he got a piece of her cake. But her mother gave her an even larger one, and let her stay up and watch cartoons, which Livvie thought was grand. But she wakes up disorientated after falling asleep on the couch. Why did her mother leave her there? It is only when she opens the door to the kitchen that she discovers her mother’s dead body, hanging from the ceiling.
This childhood incident damaged Livvie. She even spent about a year at Hathaway House as a teen, trying to learn to ignore the triggers that sent her heart racing and her body shaking. Desperate to get out, she instead learned how to dupe the staff. Since then she has lived with the sense of being watched and has this irrational apprehension that someday the bogeyman will find her. Intellectually she knows her mother committed suicide, but her subconscious tells her otherwise. Still, she keeps to herself, and lives almost off the grid.
Livvie is disturbed when a local law firm contacts her. How did they track her down? But they seem only to have a benign purpose - her mother left a sealed envelope to be delivered to her after she turned twenty-five. But who are the people in the pictures, and why did her mother send it to her? Since she doesn’t trust or even like her adoptive father, she turns to Hague, her mentally unstable brother, for assistance, but he is deep within his own paranoia. She returns to work one day after a late lunch to discover her co-workers have been massacred. Even though only a few people know about the pictures, Livvie knows that this is because of her. The bogeyman of her childhood has finally struck.
On the run, Livvie kidnaps a stranger at gunpoint, and demands that he take her to his home, so she can hide out, away from the police. Soon August (or Auggie) is more than a captive. He becomes her sounding board as she discloses her terrors and anxieties.
August Rafferty had just come off an undercover assignment when his lieutenant orders him to watch for Livvie Dugan. He saw her leave her apartment on foot and followed. It wasn’t in his plan to become her captive, but what better way to keep an eye on her. But Auggie never dreamed that he would have to fight off his awareness of her as a desirable woman.
I have been very vocal about my dislike of serial killer books. It is not that I haven’t enjoyed them before. It just that so many of the books portray the murder as this sick, perverted, debauched deviant, like in this book. While it is not completely accurate, I can somewhat accept it. The biggest problem though is an overused device of giving the reader the killer’s point of view, hoping to create fear and revulsion, writing like, "Do you hear me bitch? Do You?”, or “He felt himself harden as he thought of her, and his cruel smile widened as he reached down inside his pants and began rhythmically stroking himself, part of the ritual, part of the beginning.” Sigh – is there any serial killer that is portrayed any differently?
The start of Auggie and Livvie’s relationship is based on lies. I am tired of heroes without integrity or ethics. Plus, Ms. Bush never convinced me that the relationship had any longevity.
Most of the book is filled with red herrings, rather than time spent on characterization. And while not all of the characters are unlikeable, I didn’t find anything to admire about them either. Auggie’s sister is on the force too, and the next book in the series will be about her. And guess what? This small community has another serial killer.
-- Leigh Davis
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