I love the type of romantic suspense that combines emotion with mystery. Rita Herron attempts this combination in Midnight Disclosures, but the final result is irritating, overblown, and borderline excruciating. There is a difference between emotion and cheap melodrama. This book traffics in the latter.
Claire Kos was once in love with Army Lieutenant Mark Steele. Before he left to fight in the war, he asked her to marry him. At the same time she learned she was pregnant. She decided to race to the airport to accept his proposal and tell him about the baby, but on her way she was in a car accident. Not only was she struck blind, but she also suffered a miscarriage. Mark left believing she rejected him.
Are we crying yet? No? Well, while on his mission, five men under Mark’s command were killed on his watch. Mark blamed himself for their deaths so much that he left the army and now works for the FBI. His first case is a serial killer operating in Savannah, Georgia. There’s contradictory evidence whether he’s an actual FBI agent or merely working for them in some other capacity. Either way it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that someone who’s worked for the FBI for only a few months would be single-handedly running this case, as it often seems Mark is.
Anyway, it just so happens that Claire is a radio psychologist. Serial killer, radio psychologist. You know where this is going. The killer keeps calling Claire and making threats, he’s coming after her soon, etc. Mark is shocked to discover that Claire is blind. She avoids discussing what happened to her because he must never know the truth. Why? Because Claire is a martyr, of course. Meanwhile, some women die. The killer lurks. Mark and Claire wallow in their misery. And wallow. And wallow. And wallow.
Neither of them has a hint of personality or dimension. They’re completely defined by their sob stories, little more than two mopes adrift in a sea of choppy writing. The author really pours on the bathos for these two whiners. Claire is blind! A woman such as herself is far too much of a burden for any man to bear. She must resist Mark to spare him the burden. She’s blind. Blind! And then there’s the baby. How can she tell him she lost their child? How can she do that to him? Mark can’t get over his guilt that his men died and he lived. The Army mentioned giving him a commendation for his actions in battle, but he rejected it. He doesn’t deserve it. He doesn’t deserve to be alive. And Claire’s blind. Blind! They spend much of their time gnashing their teeth and rending their garments. A hundred pages with them and I was doing the same.
The author’s manner of using the heroine’s blindness as a cheap source of suspense is off-putting. It certainly doesn’t help that none of those scenes are suspenseful, and some are merely transparent set-ups to see bad things happen to the blind woman. For instance, Claire holds private sessions with a couple of criminals with violent pasts, including one with multiple personalities. I mean we all know that leaving a blind woman alone in a room with a man convicted of violent crimes isn’t dangerous at all. But the way the blindness issue is resolved may just be the worst part of all. Rather than create a full- fledged blind character, the author tries to milk easy emotions from the victimization of a self-flagellating blind woman. But instead of sympathy or emotion, her tactics are so obvious they only inspire disgust.
Even if they weren’t so shallow and whiny, I wouldn’t have liked these people. Claire won’t discuss her blindness with him, so Mark gets his hands on her confidential medical file. Claire is justifiably outraged. Mark’s excuse: “I wouldn’t have if you’d told me yourself.” Well, sure. That just gives him every right to violate her privacy. At one point, Mark hears Claire address one of her colleagues by (gasp) his first name and is immediately jealous. He thinks, “Claire had said she wasn’t involved with anyone, but she’d used this man’s first name, implying their relationship was on friendly terms.” Uh, yeah. A woman is capable of being on friendly terms with a man without being involved with him. This is the brilliant mind the FBI has assigned to find a serial killer?
None of the other characters are any better. They are all completely one-note, existing only to serve as possible suspects in the very lame suspense plot. Honestly, every time Mark runs into a male character he seems to wonder – could he be the killer? And then he meets someone else. Could he be the killer? That’s the whole point of the side characters. Not to exist as people, but to look shifty. And even with all these people walking around acting suspicious, the killer still comes out of nowhere.
The writing is shallow and sloppy, reading like a rushed first-draft. Details aren’t developed. Almost nothing works. Not the characters, not the romance, not the suspense. There are only a few brief glimmers where the reader can see what the story could have been like in more capable hands, like when Mark visits the widow and son of one of his dead army buddies. In the end, the main characters speak wedding vows to each other which would have been touching if they hadn’t come out of the mouths of two characters who just spent 250 pages aggravating me.
Actually, the story elements are not bad, and could have been woven together to create an effective, emotional story. But it would have to be pulled off much better than this. Midnight Disclosures is dreadful.