by Dee Davis, contemporary (2003)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1978-3
Dee Davis' latest romantic suspense, Dancing In The Dark is so far her strongest to date. What is very good here is that Ms Davis manages to balance the romance and the romantic suspense elements of her story so that I can see why the couple fall in love even as there is a serial killer out there waiting to be busted. This is the reason why I find this book much better than most of the derivative serial killer stories out there. Make no mistake, this book is, in a way, a derivative serial killer story. It is the author's deft way of making sure I care about her characters enough to keep reading is what makes Dancing In The Dark better than average.
Sara Martin lost her husband and son two years ago, but today, she is slowly moving on with life. She's a freelance photographer and writer, she has good friends, and life is okay. Maybe one day she will start dating again. Maybe. Right now, she has other things to worry about. Someone is calling her up and breathing heavily into the phone when she picks up the call. At the urging of her friends, she reluctantly goes to the police. This is where our hero Det Eric D'Angelo comes in. There are a few gristly rape-cum-murder of callgirls around Austin and our hero is on the case. Sara is his friend's wife so he decides to give her complain a look. Things get heated up however when it's apparent that Sara may have inadvertently makes herself the next target of this killer.
Like all romantic suspense stories featuring serial killers, this serial killer has some sort of gimmick. In this case, he's called the Sinatra killer because Sinatra is always playing at the site where the bodies are found. It could be worse, I guess - the serial killer could be called the Britney Spears killer and that will be really scary, dying to Baby One More Time. Everything about the story is standard formulaic romantic suspense material. I really don't think any veteran reader of the subgenre will be surprised by any plot twist here.
What fares better is Eric being a refreshing baggage-free hero who's just doing his job and slowly falling in love with Sara. The author gives Sara a very contrived reason as to why that woman doesn't avoid the prank calls by changing the number, but Sara is an otherwise smart heroine. Or at least, she doesn't do anything particularly stupid, has unrealistic sexual baggages, or cry about Daddy not loving her. This book sees Dee Davis finally writing characters that come off as people instead of cardboard figures, and it is very easy to enjoy this book because of that.
Now all she needs to do is to write a story that doesn't seem like a rehash of every other romantic suspense book out there. In the meantime, readers that find Anne Frasier too violent and Sharon Sala too laughably inept may find this book a nice halfway point between those two extremes.
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