by Charlotte Boyett-Compo, Kate Hill, and Patricia A Rasey; contemporary (2000)
Dark Star Publications, $3.95, ISBN 1-58697-046-1
This promises to be an interesting anthology at first. It promises to blend horror/thriller with romance. My anticipation goes Hubba hubba! as I anticipate getting hot flashes from sexy, dangerous cops and mad, bad, darkly handsome psychopaths. But too bad this anthology misses a few ingredients necessary for its readability, namely (a) tight editing, (b) variety, and (c) deeper characterization.
Charlotte Boyett-Compo contributes Taken By The Wind. Brenna Collins stumbles upon her dead boss in the office building one night and becomes the serial killer's next item on his meat list after she sees his face. Worse, the detective assigned to the case looks just like the killer. Eeks!
She flees, Detective Kylan Cree follows, and the serial killer joins the chase. Now, I cannot believe how a woman can be attracted to a man she believes to be a serial killer unless she tells me she has a thing from deranged bad boys. Since Brenna is a typical waif-in-distress, Kylan the stock cop jock, and the whole story revolves Brenna fleeing from city to city to city, this story makes no sense at all.
File this under standard cop chop tale. Still, best of the lot.
Then it's Kate Hill's Love On The Wild Side, which reads like a badly disjointed, choppy essay glued back together after a disaster involving the paper shredder. The heroine is a complete dolt, bordering on being stock slasher-movie-bimbo material. Alyssa Remington is a counselor for Ultra Corp. Ultra Corp is a secret organization that creates supercops via the use of - of all things - drugs and implants. As a former biochemist, I am disgusted. With all the researches on neurotransmitters, adrenaline, genetic manipulation, et cetera, these are the best the top-secret US research bodies can come up with? Why, the White House has been throwing more parties than usual?
Anyway, personal prejudice aside, this story as our heroine trying to save overdosed, burned-out supercop Luke Wilder. Luke is trapped in a cartoon plot with one-dimensional sadistic torturers. But Alyssa, she smuggles him out to her parents' country home where they two carry out some sexual therapy to heal his mind. Or something.
Issues like trust and common sense are swept under the carpet in the name of Undying Love and Cop-out Storytelling. Cheap, airhead I love you, you love me, we are one big family, hee-hee psychology rules the day. This story thus loses all its credibility as a gritty tale of trust and love. Awkward storytelling style adds to the headache.
Oh, and the final conflict involves a houseful of poor innocent kiddies taken hostage. It's been awhile since I've read such blatant exploitation of underage kids for cheap sentimentality.
Why do couples break up? Detective Jack Carter and his ex-wife Cara Banks are thrown together to stop a - oh yes, yet again - a serial killer. I guess Unibombers and Saddam Hussein are on some extended vacation. Nice creepy touch of using snakes as the murder weapon, of course, but the love triangle between Cara, Jack, and the murder suspect is laughable. Especially where all three are cardboards. Jack - Honorable and Arrogant (Doesn't Tell The Wife Anything) and the Other Man - Oily and Charming. Guess who Cara the One-Dimensional "Feisty, Independent" (read: foolhardy) heroine chooses.
Therefore, Patricia A Rasey's Fear The Dark is an exercise in mediocrity. Mediocre characters, mediocre plot, mediocre thrills.
Maybe they should have just asked Vince Gilligan for three short stories involving Mulder and Scully instead. Strip away the hype and the gloss, this anthology turns out to be a patchwork of inadvertently funny death scenes ("Please don't shoot me again - aaargh!"), awkward romance, and even more awkward writing styles.
But I have a great laugh over one serial killer's line. I don't know whether it's intended to be funny or not, but "Your expiration date has arrived, Mr Jenner!" never fails to crack me up. I am still afraid to walk past the canned food aisle in the local supermarket for fear of bursting a rib laughing.
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