Alone in the Dark
This will probably be my swan song as a reviewer of Karen Rose novels. While I find her characters addictive, sex scenes scintillating and intricate mysteries fascinating, the over-complicated plots and sheer un-believability of the story lines often leave me frustrated. This novel was no exception.
Marcus O’Bannion has been crushing on Detective Scarlett Bishop for months but has been slow to act. He’s got lots of good reasons for that: he’s a reporter, she’s a cop and those occupations tend not to mix well. He’s also been recovering from a gunshot injury received while he was trying to protect someone. Added to that, he is grieving his brother’s recent death and you have a trifecta of causes for him to still be gazing at her from afar. He’s ready to have more of her in his life though, and to that end she is the person he calls when a young lady reaches out to him for help and gets shot while they are talking.
Scarlett thinks Marcus is so hot she’s stopped having casual sex with friends. She figures she deserves a decent relationship and she doesn’t want her life crowded with complications when she does get together with Marcus. When she gets his call, she responds right away. Her hopes had been for a date, not a meeting over a dead body but she dresses to impress anyway – skin tight jeans and a barely there tank. She catches Marcus’ eye and appreciates him appreciating her but there is little time for that thanks to the dead girl at their feet. Canvasing the area doesn’t provide any information, but Marcus was wearing a cap-cam and has footage of his final meeting with the woman as well as from several of their previous meetings. I get how that is helpful to the cops but I have to step in here to say it creeps me out. I now don’t want to speak to people wearing ball caps lest they be recording me.
Scarlet is not creeped out by the cap-cam but she has a completely different reaction when she finds out the young woman was wearing a tracking anklet, the kind normally reserved for people under house arrest. Based on what they had seen from the cap cam footage they suspected the girl might have been a slave brought to this country illegally by a human trafficking ring. The anklet goes a long way to supporting that theory. Various agencies begin working with the evidence, hoping it will lead them to the others like her the girl had spoken of, and to the people running that nasty business.
Meanwhile, the villains behind the trafficking ring know the police have the anklet. It’s clear they have some internal issues so they begin housekeeping right away, looking for loose ends and cutting them ruthlessly.
That describes the first 30% or roughly 220 pages of the book. Most of it is conversations with CSU or in Marcus’s case, discussions with staff and family, but it is really all background noise. This was the start of my problems with the book. Those first 220 pages? In spite of the initial killing sequences, it was pretty boring. Then the story took off and got interesting, there was some forward motion and – back to the snore fest. The uneven pacing continued throughout the book.
Part of the problem is how simply everything about Marcus and Scarlett is explained. Scarlett is kind to homeless people and there is a story behind that. Marcus has a gay step-dad and there is a story behind that. His grandfather had issues and there is a story behind that. There’s a story from Marcus’s childhood to emphasize both his heroic nature and the cause of his angst; there’s a story in Scarlett’s past regarding a best friend and a story regarding her estrangement from her family – these two didn’t have an emotion or thought they couldn’t trace back to some past event. It was definitely a case of TMI.
I mentioned the un-believability factor; I don’t want to enter spoiler territory but the lead villain trusts someone to an extent I found surprising. I’m not evil or suspicious by nature and this guy would have waved big red flags for me, so that detracted a bit from the tale. Given his reaction to some information regarding longtime friends it just didn’t ring true.
I’m not a wimp who can’t read long novels. In fact, I just finished one similar in size to this and gave it a much higher grade at Goodreads. It’s not that the book is long, it’s what the author did with that length that is the problem. The book is long because she filled it full of what was happening with the villains. The book is long because she explained every aspect of her characters. The book is long because she takes too long describing police procedures. In the end the book is long simply because the author explained a lot that other writers gloss over and ultimately, that devotion to detail detracted from rather than enhanced the novel.
The good news is that there are some hidden treasures here that do add a lot to the story. Marcus and Scarlett are a good couple. They work well together and while their romance isn’t romantic it reflects who they are as people. Both are slow to act on the attraction but once they do it’s full speed ahead and that matches their personalities.
Another positive is that while I was frustrated by how much time is spent on the villains I was fascinated by the mole that seemed to be disrupting their world. I had guessed who that mole was but the coup plot at the end kept it interesting and I would say this was the best part of the tale for me.
I also liked the setup for the next few couples in the series. I’ll probably get the books from the library in order to see what happens with them.
But overall I would not recommend Alone in the Dark to any but Karen Rose fans. Those who know her style and love her despite her flaws will enjoy the book. I read a lot of romantic suspense however, and while I certainly like this author, there are many better out there. Those who are looking for a good romantic suspense read would do well to check our data base and see what else is available.