Written By Sandra Robbins
Review By Nike Chillemi
Publisher: Steeple Hill (August 11, 2009)
Chilling emails in rhyme taunting “let’s play a game” and a serial killer is on a roll. What more could you ask for in a thriller?
In this fast-paced, action packed romantic suspense, local radio talk show host, C.J. Tanner’s skin crawls. She’s received the first email riddle in a demented killer’s deadly game. In round one, Fala, the killer, demands C.J. solve the riddle in order to stop the first murder.
No matter how hard she tries, she’s unable to do that and is horrified when the first victim of this sick game is her elderly next-door neighbor. Without getting graphic, author Robbins lets the reader know the murder scene is gruesome through the reactions of the officers who congregate at the crime scene. C.J.’s heart breaks, recalling the cups of tea she shared with the gregarious older woman. Then the killer phones in as a caller on C.J’s radio show, his high-pitched, screeching voice taunting her and blaming her for the old woman’s death. By this time, I was hooked.
Now C.J. must turn to Oxford (Tennessee) Police Department Detective Mitch Harmon, her ex-fiancé. Mitch is good at what he does. He soon learns Fala means crow. What symbolism does that have to the killer? Mitch discovers the plural of crow is a murder and he wonders if there is more than one killer. Sandra Robbins is skillful at creating red herrings. I thought one male character after another would turn out to be the killer. At one point, I even thought a female character might be, and then thought not. The author had me wondering right up until the last chapters.
The romance rings true. C.J. still loves Mitch, even though she gave him his ring back — and he still loves her. But they have some pretty big hurdles to jump, including her lack of faith. Will they even try?
He thinks she’s stubborn and unreasonable, refusing his protection. While the thought of anything bad happening to her drives him crazy. She accuses him of being manipulative and over bearing, which brings back haunting childhood memories. The dialog between the two has authenticity. They are two individuals who love each other but who also have hurt each other. This comes across loud and clear.
C.J.’s denial of faith sounds so much like the words many of us have heard from associates, neighbors, friends, and even family. Her first steps toward God, made in the grip of fear, are touching.
One aspect of the novel that is completely refreshing is Mitch’s willingness to ask an FBI profiler for help in the case, eschewing the usual, often overworked cop story jurisdictional rivalries. This sharing of information gains Mitch the knowledge that Fala is wanted under another name by the FBI for murders in other states.
I won’t be a spoiler, but I will say in this skillfully writing suspense how Fala is caught turns out to be a surprise, as well as who catches him.