Final Exit is the kind of book that normally wouldn’t warrant a recommendation. It’s a standard-issue serial killer tale that deals in all the typical scenes and obvious clichés. The difference is that Laurie Breton’s writing is so strong that it makes an ordinary story anything but.
A serial rape/killer is targeting young women in Boston. When the local authorities contact the FBI for assistance, profiler Carolyn Monahan takes the assignment in her hometown. But coming home means confronting the past as well.
Conor Rafferty, Carolyn’s first love, is the police lieutenant in charge of the case. They were torn apart ten years earlier by the murder of Carolyn’s younger sister. The case was never solved, and her family never recovered. Carolyn was supposed to be there to walk her sister home. Instead she was with Conor. Blaming herself for her sister’s murder, Carolyn broke off the relationship and dedicated herself to catching other killers through her work at the FBI.
Neither Conor nor Carolyn ever married, and the feelings between them resurface. Working to find the killer before he strikes again brings them closer together. It also forces Carolyn to deal with her sister’s murder even more than she expected. And then the killer begins to focus on Carolyn.
Laurie Breton shows she has the goods to one day challenge the top names in suspense, because it takes real skill to enliven a story this generic. Final Exit is exceptionally well done for this type of book. The writing is taut and polished and for the most part, the story moves quickly. It’s easy to get engrossed in the lives of these people. Carolyn and Conor are both strong characters, and the author manages to develop a complicated and believable love story without losing track of the suspense plot. Final Exit is more character focused than some romantic suspense novels, and since it’s usually the characters that make a book, that’s one big reason why this book works.
One nice element is how the story seems to be populated with an entire community of characters, which I always enjoy. There are a lot of people in this book, not only those directly involved in the plot, as is the case with so many books, but a sprawling group connected to the main characters both professionally and personally. It’s never confusing trying to identify who any of them are, a feat in and of itself.
This is an engaging read because of the quality of writing, and yet, on the surface, the story could not be more clichéd. The prologue shows the killer taking out his latest victim. City officials are impatient for results and only make Connor’s job harder, including threatening to take the case away from him unless he gets results ASAP. The cops resent the FBI’s presence and don’t believe the profiler can help. It’s set in Boston, so of course the main characters are Irish, complete with Conor’s pub-owning pa and Carolyn’s retired cop father, who she always looked up to, much to her mother’s dismay. The very first time one character is mentioned I said, “He’s the killer.” Three hundred-odd pages later, I turned out to be right. The climax is strictly formula in the way it puts the heroine into the killer’s hands in a way that’s so obvious the reader can virtually see the mechanics pushing everything together.
Final Exit may not offer much new for romantic suspense aficionados, especially those who’ve read their fair share of serial killer stories. It’s still worth a look, if only to discover an author sure to hit it big. Because if she can come up with less conventional stories, I expect her to do just that.