With several books under her belt and several accolades for her writing, Maggie Shayne is no stranger to most of you. Her paranormal, romantic suspense, and other novels have been hitting the shelves for months at a time for many years. By chance, Kelly picked up the latest novel in this the Secrets of Shadow Falls series and I won the first one from a contest at The Season. Since we both like to begin at the beginning of a series, we jumped right on Killing Me Softly and actually surprised ourselves by how quickly we chose the novel for this month’s review. I think you’ll agree with us when we say we made a good choice.
Maggie Shayne’s personal story is interesting in and of itself. To read more about this author or her books, please visit her website at www.maggieshayne.com
Brynna said: A fast-paced, nail biter from page one, Killing Me Softly takes the reader on a journey to a small town in Vermont plagued by a serial killer. Though the victims all fit a specific profile, no one feels safe, especially since the latest murder suspect is one of their own, a rookie cop. Is this new murderer just a copy-cat killer, a man lost to madness from an obsession with the old crime? Or did they punish the wrong man 16 years ago when the murders miraculously seemed to stop? Would it be possible for a madman to control his urges for so many years until he is forced to unleash them once again?
Only the Nightcap Strangler really knows this secret of Shadow Falls.
Five years ago, daughter of a convicted murderer, Dawn Jones left the only man she’s ever loved to escape the spirits who visited her in both the daylight and the dark. Now she finds herself haunted by a different kind of ghost, the ghost of the love she shared with Bryan Kendall. To be able to return to him, to the passion they shared, she’d give anything. Almost. The fear of returning to a world where the mad gift that destroyed her own father might return keeps her far away from the one man she’s never been able to forget.
Until the unthinkable happens.
Bryan Kendall has never been able to forgive Dawn for running away without a word, but he’s been doing his damnedest to forget. Some might say he just might be trying too hard. On the morning after the party celebrating his return to the police force, Bryan awakens to find his latest lover strangled in his bed. The crime, identical to those of the Nightcap Strangler who hasn’t killed in the sixteen years since his incarceration, might be easy to solve, if the man who’d paid for the crimes hadn’t just recently died. Now, Bryan is the lead suspect in this latest murder and every day that passes brings only another clue to incriminate him. To believe him innocent would be difficult for anyone.
Except for Dawn.
To save the man she has always loved, Dawn must face down her worst fears. Will the ghosts return to plague her? Or worse, will Bryan refuse to forgive her? Still, she has no choice. Bryan is innocent and if she has to talk to the dead woman herself, Dawn is determined to do whatever it takes to prove it.
If you like suspense with a touch of paranormal, you will enjoy Maggie Shayne’s first novel of her latest trilogy the Secrets of Shadow Falls. Though I figured out the murderer’s identity about halfway through, I wasn’t deterred from finishing the book in the two days (with the day job thrown in the middle) it took to read it. The details and red herrings and characterization created an intense atmosphere any mystery lover will appreciate.
I wouldn’t, however, call this book romantic suspense.
The reconnection between Dawn and Bryan went a little too smoothly for me, as she slipped back into the familiar “Bry” from their first meeting. And though the tension between them was palpable, the reasons the author gives for their separation are swept aside as Dawn decides they are no longer strong enough to keep her away from the man she loves. I enjoyed the adventure and the twists and turns, but I didn’t really buy the romance or the conflict the author tries to convey to keep these two lovers at a physical distance from each other. I did, however, really like the author’s use of a reporter to bring about the ending romance readers have come to expect.
All in all, as I am an avid mystery fan as well as a romance fan, I have to say I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but I would caution any hardcore romance reader to expect more suspense than passion, more intrigue than romance.
Kelly said: It’s been five years since Dawn laid eyes on the first, the only, man to ever lay claim to her heart. She escaped to the other side of the country to escape her unwanted abilities, abilities that destroyed her family and turned her father into a monster. But, summoned back to Vermont in the wake of a horrific tragedy, she rushes to the side of the man she left behind, knowing full well that she’ll need to embrace the very gift that drove her into hiding from the life she was meant to leave.
It’s been five years since Bryan last saw the girl who ripped his heart out when she left him and their young love in a cloud of dust. He’d thought he’d gotten past the hurt, the need for Dawn, moved on with his life. But when he wakes up next to his dead girlfriend, and winds up as the chief suspect in her brutal strangulation, he finds that despite the years and the emotional baggage between them, having Dawn at his side, facing down the world, just feels right.
It’s been sixteen years since the Nightcap Strangler indulged the urge to kill. For more than a decade he’s lain silent, suppressed, waiting. But secrets can’t stay hidden forever, and when a young cop begins to explore the series of murders that terrorized the small Vermont town all those years ago, the killer arises from dormancy to strike once more. And the next candidate the Strangler wants to share a final drink with has just arrived back in town after five years away …
Okay, I’ll agree that Brynna and I were uncommonly excited when we selected Killing Me Softly so quickly as our September read. And perhaps the ease with which our choice was made should have been an omen that what came after wouldn’t be quite as simple. The elements were all there – a mystery that had me guessing at the killer’s identity until the end reveal (a rarity, I assure you), emotional tension, meaningful backstory, well-developed three-dimensional characters.
And I just couldn’t get into it. Yes, the elements are all there, but at times it was like I was reading two different books within the same cover. The alpha book, if you will, the paranormal mystery, was well-crafted and engaging, with none of the obvious hints that spoil the killer’s identity too early in the story, but also none of the incredible leaps-of-logic that leave you questioning how the end comes to be. For the mystery, Ms. Shayne definitely earns an “A.” However, like Brynna, I too felt the beta book, the emotional development between the protagonists, to be flat and unconvincing. Though the conflict between Bryan and Dawn is set up for us from nearly the beginning of the book, the characters spend more time discussing how they don’t want to discuss their issues than actually progressing toward the inevitable emotional resolution.
Is it an enjoyable read? Yes, and anyone with a taste for a good mystery will most likely enjoy it. Just don’t hold out hope for the grand romance that we’ve come to expect here at RRT.
I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming lately to get ready for Book in a Week. In the past, I haven’t been forthcoming in workshops about the story I’m working on and I’m not really sure why. Maybe I just like to internalize at this stage of the book. When I get stuck, I do brainstorm with my CP’s. With them I don’t feel as awkward trying to explain my nebulous ideas for characters and plot, and I know they won’t laugh at my storyline (at least, not to my face :))
This time around it’s different. I chose to share with the class. The results have been fabulous. I’ve gotten some wonderful ideas from April and several members of the group. Their comments and insights have gotten my creativity flowing. I’m glad I was brave enough to put myself out there.
So my questions for you this week are: Do you normally like to brainstorm with others or do you prefer to internalize and keep the story close? Do you have any tips that help you develop your characters and storyline before you start writing?