Arousing Suspicions
by Marianne Stillings, contemporary (2007)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-085009-8


Marianne Stillings' Arousing Suspicions is much better than her previous and loosely-related book Sighs Matter but it still shares the same problems as that book, only at a lesser degree. The humor is there but the timing is off, as a result often causing me to scratch my head rather than to appoint Ms Stillings the heir apparent to Janet Evanovich's glittery hamster-raisin tiara.

Tabitha March is a legal transcriber as well as a psychic dream interpreter. She can apparently touch people and look into their minds to see their last dream. She already has an encounter with cop Nathan Darling when he goes undercover as a client to check out a complain that she's running an unsavory business and they meet again when she's convinced that she is "seeing" a killer running around taking down his victims in her dreams. The serial killer starts toying with her, which leads Nate to stick close to her.

The good thing is, the characters here at least behave with some semblance of normalcy when in the author's previous books they are arguing like children when they are supposed to be sober as there is a killer on the loose. However, there are still many disconcerting scenes, mostly on the part of Nate. The author is really doing Nate no favors by having him wanting jump Tabitha's bones at the most bizarre moments. When they are discussing the possibility of her being a prostitute, he wants to jump her. When they are discussing a serial killer, he wants to jump her. When he believes that she may be the killer in question, he thinks of jumping her as well. When they are supposed to keeping watch for dangerous things that go bump in the dark, he wants to jump her. It is as if this poor man is incapable of feeling much other than perpetual randiness. He's like a walking Viagra pill - his randiness seems to override any other emotion that he should be feeling in a particular situation.

Tabitha is a better-written character mostly because she is capable of feeling more than randiness. Unfortunately, this means she has only two ranges of emotions compared to Nate's one - randiness and sarcasm. She has her share of "Oh please, that is really stupid!" moments but she is like a Jayne Ann Krentz heroine in that she may be dumb at times but on the whole she can put two and two together. The mystery is pretty decent too. On the whole, Arousing Suspicions isn't a bad read at all. But the author's tendency to have her characters, especially Nate, going on hormonal overdrive also gives this story a rather adolescent feel. I can't help but to wonder that perhaps some of the scenes devoted to descriptions of randy horndog panting could have been used to show some much-needed depths in the characters and their relationship.

There is too much arousing going on in this story, if you ask me, to the point that the main characters come off like hormonal teenagers on Spring Break rather than two people facing a serial killer. I understand what the author is trying to do with her brand of humorous romantic suspenses, but I find that her sense of timing is still off at times.

Rating: 70


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