Her Last Whisper
Her Last Whisper is the third book in Karen Robards’ popular Dr. Charlotte Stone series. Readers are told to expect a blend of romance, suspense, and the paranormal. What they aren’t told is just how laughable a combination this can create.
I would not recommend listening to this book if you aren’t already familiar with the earlier books in the series. The mystery begins and ends in Her Last Whisper, but there are several plotlines that carry over from the previous books. Having said this, it is important to note that this review contains spoilers for The Last Victim and The Last Kiss Goodbye.
Charlotte Stone’s life was touched by evil when she was just a teenager. After the tragic death of her best friend, Charlie has devoted her life to understanding what makes serial killers tick. To this end, she is involved in a research project, interviewing several death row inmates, all convicted of serial murder.
The book opens as Charlie wraps up one such interview. She is attacked by the prisoner and rushed to the infirmary. While there, Charlie and Michael Garland, the ghost of a former interview subject, see evil spirits invade the bodies of a prison trustee as well as the doctor who is treating Charlie’s wounds. They barely manage to escape before Federal Agent Tony Bartoli enters the prison, once again seeking Charlie’s help with a case. This time, he needs her to identify a suspect known as the Cinderella Killer.
Charlie desperately wants to turn Tony down. She’s spent enough time up close and personal with murderers. However, she can’t bring herself to say no to Tony, especially when Michael demands she do just that. So, against her better judgement, Charlie hops on a plane to Las Vegas.
I enjoy books about serial killers. Romantic suspense can be fascinating, but not when one of the main characters is a ghost. Charlie is able to communicate with the spirits of those who have recently suffered violent deaths. This is fine, as a concept. However, Michael’s ghost has lingered on the earthly plane for the past six weeks, and Charlie is determined to keep him with her. In fact, she’s so determined to do this that her work on the case suffers. She can’t keep her mind on the missing women because Michael has begun to flicker in and out of visibility. She tells herself not to care, but it’s futile. She does care, and I wished she’d just admit it already. The arguments she had with herself were very repetitive and caused the story to drag much more than it needed to.
As I listened, I got the distinct impression that Ms. Robards was trying to cram too much into one book. She wanted to write a thriller and a paranormal romance at the same time. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite up to the task. The romance far outweighed the suspense. In fact, it often seemed like the case Charlie was working was more of a plot device rather than a fully fleshed out part of the book. It served as a point of conflict for Charlie and Michael, as well as giving Charlie more exposure to Tony, who has the hots for her. Charlie wants to reciprocate Tony’s feelings, but Michael gets in the way. How can he get in the way when he doesn’t exist? How can he compete with a flesh and blood man? Sure, he and Charlie have managed to have super steamy sex on the astral plane, but what can he offer her? What kind of life could they possibly have together? They can’t even hold hands. And yet, it’s plain that the author is rooting for this couple. Charlie, Michael, and Tony are supposed to form a love triangle, but I didn’t find it at all convincing. Charlie is only torn on the surface. Her heart belongs to Michael, who may or may not be a serial killer himself. I just wish she would have realized this sooner. If she had, maybe the suspense could have been better developed.
Ann Marie Lee’s narration was the best part of the listening experience. Ms. Lee has been a long time favorite of mine, and I must admit to choosing this book simply because I saw her listed as the narrator. She’s one of those people I enjoy listening to, even if I don’t necessarily like what they’re reading.
As always, Ms. Lee did a fabulous job bringing the characters to life. Michael speaks with a delightful southern drawl that is sure to make some listeners swoon. Tony is not given an accent, but Ms. Lee infuses the character with a genuine niceness that had me rooting for him the whole time. I wanted Charlie to end up with someone as kind, loving, and practical as Tony. I loved how Ms. Lee made me feel just how much he cared about her, and how confused he was by the mixed messages she sends him.
Charlie was a difficult character for me to like. I found Ms. Lee’s portrayal to be quite believable. However, I couldn’t dredge up much sympathy for this doctor who is so set on saving the world, no matter the cost to herself. She tries to come off as calm, cool, and collected, and this works well most of the time. Ms. Lee showed us the cracks in the facade, and these imperfections helped make her a little more real. Even so, I found myself wanting to shake her more often than not.
There are quite a few characters in the story. Ms. Lee gave each one a distinct sound. Even characters of the same gender who were close in age were easy to differentiate from one another. Dialogue tags were present, but I did not rely on them at all.
I was quite pleased with the way Ms. Lee handled the amount of sexual tension in the book. A lot of what she read was ridiculous, but she was a consummate professional, adding just the right amount of emotion to the steamy scenes. Maybe if one of the participants hadn’t been a dead man, I would have enjoyed it more.
I imagine I’ve made it clear that ghosts are simply not my thing. Every once in awhile, I’ll come across a book that makes me see them just a little bit differently. Unfortunately, Her Last Whisper was not that kind of story. The author seemed determined to cram the ghost down my throat, and, as odd as this may sound, I think her insistence that I come to love him made me quite determined not to give in.
If you like ghost romances with a dash of suspense thrown in, Her Last Whisper might work well for you. Be aware that it ends on a cliffhanger though. The mystery is solved, but the problem of Michael’s existence, or lack thereof is still awaiting its resolution.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A- and Book Content: D+
Unabridged. Length – 13 hours 57 minutes