I'm Watching You
Before I stumbled across this book in the bookstore, I’d never heard of Karen Rose. Which raises the question, where have I been? If this book is any indication, she’s a real author to watch.
Prosecutor Kristen Mayhew has the highest conviction rate in the district attorney’s office, but she still takes every loss especially hard. She relates to crime victims more than anyone knows, due to the past experience led her to become a lawyer in the first place. It now seems that someone is taking care of the criminals she couldn’t convict. One night she finds three boxes in the trunk of her car. Each contains a picture of one of her previous defendants clearly showing that they’ve been murdered, as well as a letter signed her “humble servant.”
Abe Reagan is the Chicago homicide detective assigned to find the identity of Kristen’s avenger. He has wounds of his own related to the death of his wife, Debra, who took a bullet intended for him. She remained in a vegetative state for five years before finally passing away, and he continues to deal with the guilt. Neither he nor Kristen is looking for a relationship, but they soon form a bond as they work together on the case.
Abe may be the only person who can protect Kristen when she finds her life in danger. Some of the friends and family members of the killer’s victims aren’t too happy with their deaths, and they believe they can get his identity from her. Soon everyone Kristen knows becomes a potential target. Catching a killer may mean more than stopping the murders. It may be the only way to save everyone she cares about.
This was a problematic scenario that I wasn’t sure the author was going to pull off. After all, the people being killed include a serial rapist, gang members who killed two small children, a pedophile who preyed on little boys, and others of their ilk. While it’s easy to believe on one level that killing is wrong, it’s hard as a reader to feel much grief that these lowlifes are meeting their ends in symbolically appropriate ways. In fact, it’s pretty satisfying to watch them get what they deserve. So the author cannily adds other antagonists to the mix. A ruthless reporter targets Kristen in order to advance her own career. A mobster who always bought his son out of trouble doesn’t appreciate it when his son becomes targeted by the killer. Their presence raises the stakes and keeps the tension high.
For a suspense novel, the author does a strong job of developing both her characters and a slowly evolving romance. The relationship does move gradually, as the two sympathetic characters manage to open up to each other. Abe and Kristen are both tortured people, but thankfully not ones who wallow in misery. The romance is somewhat understated, but still nicely done and ultimately very satisfying. They’re surrounded by a well-drawn cast of characters, from Abe’s large family to their law enforcement colleagues and even the villains.
The book isn’t without its flaws. The killer is far too easily guessed and I knew who it was way too early in the book, which tempered the suspense somewhat. It speaks to the story’s strength that it was still compelling despite that obviousness. The reporter was too much of a cliche – the usual scheming, overly ambitious b_tch female reporters always are in books like this. At least one surprise, if it was even intended to be one, wasn’t at all surprising. Also, at 475 pages, this is a longer book than the average romantic suspense novel. I hoped that would mean this was a meatier read, but the book could have been shorter by about 100 pages, which would have eliminated some slow sections.
Still, this is a case where I was more impressed with the author than this particular story. Apparently this is only Rose’s third book, yet she writes with a strong and assured voice that would rival any veteran author. Crisp and taut, her writing comes closer to mainstream suspense than most regular romantic suspense. In fact, there are plenty of authors being published in hardback that aren’t this good. While I did enjoy this story, it really sparked my interest in trying some of her other books to see if this is the norm for her.
I’m Watching You is an impressive entry from an author I hadn’t heard of, but now won’t soon forget. Readers interested in finding the next big author before she hits it big, take note. Keep your eye on Karen Rose.