Closer Than You Think
While I was reading this book the word that kept coming to mind was “too”. The book was too long. The killer too evil. The body count too high. The good characters too perfect. The romance took place too fast. Beneath all the excess was a story that is riveting but you have to shovel through a lot of “too” to get to it.
Faith has had a lot of last names but the one she was happiest to get rid of was Frye. Not only did it remind her of her not so beloved ex, it was the name by which her crazed stalker knew her. With a new name, a new location and a new career she is hoping that she has finally thrown him off. But you know what they say about out of the frying pan and into the fire. Faith finds herself engulfed in flames pretty quickly.
It all revolves around her new location. Faith, for sound financial reasons, plans to move into the house left to her in her grandmother’s will. The home is a huge mausoleum; multiple floors filled with antiques and art. She doesn’t really want the house because it holds bad memories. Bad, mysterious memories involving the basement. But she does want to stay there for a while and hide out from her stalker and sort through everything in the home so she can sell it all and move on.
Of course things don’t go smoothly. When Faith arrives at the house the key given her by her grandmother’s lawyer doesn’t work. After stomping around for a bit outside and taking some pictures of the family cemetery for her dad she gets back in the car and starts making a to-do list of people to contact regarding the house. The next day she returns to meet the locksmith and finds out that all hell has broken loose. In the 24 hours she’s been gone one of the girls being kept in her grandma’s basement by a crazed serial killer has escaped in the van of the (now deceased) electrician who had come to the house at Faith’s request. The girl crashes her van right in front of Faith, Faith races to her aid and calls 9-1-1 and that’s when the police arrive.
The police are not a good thing for Faith. First, her ex is a cop. Second, Faith worked as a psychologist who did rehab with sex offenders which is apparently a huge no-no for cops everywhere. She was accused of having an affair with her stalker, who was one such offender, and until the man became physically violent with her the police had treated his stalking as an affair gone bad (translation: you brought it on yourself, lady.) Now as she stands beside a young woman who has clearly been sexually assaulted some of the cops actually question whether or not Faith might have somehow been involved in the whole thing. Is she covering for a boyfriend/sex offender now?
While this line of thinking is being pursued by some, FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is not one of them. He sees Faith’s actions in helping the girl, which involved considerable physical risk and discomfort to herself, as heroic. And besides, she finds him, an unusual looking guy with bi-colored eyes and shocking white hair, beautiful. How can she be guilty? But when they get to Grandma’s house it seems clear that a very big, bad wolf has been playing in Grandma’s basement. It is also clear that the wolf aka serial killer has fled the scene with at least two hostages. As the police and FBI gear up for a desperate manhunt they must first determine if Faith is friend or foe.
One of the things I found “too” about this novel is that Deacon is too quick to trust Faith. His gut tells him she is decent and he just goes with that, quickly pulling her into his life and introducing her to key family members within 48 hours of meeting her. This in spite of the fact that one of his friends/cousins on the force is clearly suspicious of her. Also happening too fast is that Faith bonds with that family, instantly becoming protective of Deacon’s younger brother and equally trusting and open with Deacon’s sister.
Which leads me to another “too” – the perfection of hero and heroine. In spite of all kinds of abuse from the law, Faith is this sweet, caring person devoted to justice. She is a great listener and advocate for simply everyone around her. She’s almost better at solving crime than the cops. She is completely forgiving and caring, even with Deacon’s cousin who is fairly nasty to her at the start. Deacon is another “too” – too cool, with a gut that has a perfect record in figuring out crime and a heart ready to commit literally just hours after setting eyes on “the one.”
That really didn’t work for me. Deacon and Faith have this instant rapport and are together, physically and emotionally, before 48 hours pass. I could get the physical – stress relief – but the unity they have emotionally so quickly after meeting doesn’t work. These two don’t share meals together or quiet times to just know each other – it’s non-stop action coupled with complete love and trust. Most of us have had relationships we look back on and think, “How did I not know he/she was like that?” I know these two had those kind of relationships since each of them had been divorced. But they plunged in, heart first, completely. It was too little courtship combined with too little relationship building for my taste.
That’s because much of the book is taken up by the chase for the serial killer. There are endless witness interviews (red herring setups), time spent in the head of our homicidal maniac and time spent with the two remaining hostages who are trying valiantly to escape. I don’t know what Ms. Rose should have cut but I will say that for me it was just too much. The serial killer was so evil that he was almost a caricature. For a man who didn’t want to be caught, he left the police no choice but to chase him with extreme prejudice. He killed constantly. In four days he racked up 12 kills that were peripheral to his intended crime. I suppose it could be argued that he was crazy and coming unhinged but for a man who had worked so long without leaving a trace it seemed surprising to watch him unravel so quickly.
As if the above weren’t enough we are also participating in the solution to Faith’s basement phobia. She clearly had a traumatic event in Gran’s basement and there is a bit of historical forensics and sleuthing to unearth the past while a crazed killer is chased in the present. For me, this made for too much mystery.
Those are the negatives but the book does have a lot going for it. It is above average in the suspense department; it’s not so much that you want to know who-dun-it as you are eager to see just how the police and Deacon and Faith get it all worked out. The writing style is smooth and eloquent; Ms. Rose is an experienced pro who keeps you entertained and interested even as you recognize the flaws in the work. And the book is certainly rich in detail, which is a good thing considering it is close to 700 pages long. A lot of time in romantic suspense some loose end or other is left untied but in this book every I is dotted, every t crossed.
I’ll add a nod to the fact that fans of Rose will recognize Deacon and various other characters mentioned throughout this book from Rose’s previous works, most notably Did You Miss Me?. You don’t need to have read the rest of the series to enjoy this one, though.
Clearly this isn’t one of my favorites by this author. I am giving it a very cautious recommendation. If you are in the mood for a book that is long and detailed, flawed but ultimately worth it I would definitely pick this up. It will take a bit to get through it all but in the end the payoff is just worth it. Just.