Monday, December 10, 2018

CHOP IT UP: Stealing Shadows by Kay Hooper

"What if you can enter a madman's cruel mind as he plans his vicious crimes? 
What if you can see the terrified face of his prey as he moves in for the kill -- but you can't stop his frenzy once he strikes? 
Psychic Cassie Neill helps the L.A. police catch killers -- until she makes a terrible mistake and an innocent child dies. Cassie flees to a small North Carolina town, hoping that a quiet life will silence the voices that invade her unwilling mind. But Cassie's abilities know few boundaries. And she's become certain -- as no one else can be -- that a murderer is stalking Ryan's Bluff. 
It's his fury that Cassie senses first, then his foul thoughts and perverse excitement. Yet she doesn't know who he is or where he will strike. The sheriff won't even listen to her -- until the first body is found exactly where and how she predicted. Now a suspect herself, she races desperately to unmask the killer in the only way she knows: by entering his twisted mind. Her every step is loaded with fear and uncertainty... because if he senses her within him, he'll trap her there, so deep she'll never find her way out."
Stealing Shadows is the first book in Kay Hooper's Noah Bishop series. And the hook to her Bishop series is he’s a psychic detective. Specifically, one who runs a division of psychic detectives thriving as FBI agents. Interesting and exciting stuff, right? Well, in Bishop's 2000 debut, he played a secondary role to a pretty stringent romance.

Which almost stuck an ice pick in my poor balloon of new series hope.

So, Bishop aside, it didn't take long for me to realize what I was really getting myself into. And it didn't take long for me to see how the characters weren’t going to go beyond his or her cookie-cutter "stringent romance" roles. You know, that sense that they’ll serve their story and turn up forgotten soon after.

So Cassie, the true protagonist, suffers from psychic visions of a killer. Visions that wilts her until she folds into the arms of a lawyer/judge love interest named Ben Ryan. Traditionally, Cassie has her romantic walls up. As romances go, those walls begin crumbling from the first petty argument between her and Ben. And it was their first argument that triggered the groaning realization that this book wasn't going to be exactly what I'd anticipated. Nevertheless, I didn't tap out just yet. I found myself pleased that Cassie wasn’t a complete sim of a romantic lead character. She wasn't a bitter, begrudging bitch (thinking about Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan character) hedging and hawing along the way. So despite all the criticisms and skepticism she swallowed from Ben regarding her abilities, as well as his later excessively loving advances, she held up nicely enough to keep me interested.

And Ben struggled with a flurry of past failures. He rehashed his previous failed relationships and his current drama a lot. Anything to get Cassie to love him. And love him hard. Which she eventually cracks and does. So his job was done without deviance.

I guess I’ve read enough Sandra Browns to know how this formula works with the signs show. Don’t get me wrong, because I didn’t dislike the characters at all. I kind of knew what you saw was all you were going to get. With a sprinkle of background information to give him or her little more development, these guys played their roles perfectly. To the point where I was more or less invested in the mystery. Which was your standard serial killer thriller pump anyway. Regardless of the psychic hook.

And while I still liked Stealing Shadows–through whatever other means I can’t quite put into words–I have to say it read like a romantic Lifetime movie. You know, having this almost ephemeral safeness to its made-for-TV delivery. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Because who doesn’t love a Lifetime movie? Yet, at the same time, I never quite felt the severity and stakes of the thriller component of the book because of the emphasis on plotting and 8-balling the romance. Seriously, that’s about how I can describe my experience with Stealing Shadows. I hope more of the Bishop shows up in the following books. And less, well, romance.

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