The awkwardly titled Partner-Protector is yet another psychic heroine/skeptical detective/serial killer storyline that adds absolutely nothing to a story that been done before, and done better. Though competently told, there’s nothing here to justify its existence.
We open, predictably enough, in one of the heroine’s psychic visions. For years Kansas City prostitutes have been murdered around New Year’s, but the police haven’t made any headway solving the Holiday Hooker murders. Then Kelsey Ryan has a dream that may offer new clues to the case. She contacts the police, who refer to her as “The Flake” behind her back. Detective T. Merle Banning is ordered to work with her and find out what she’s “seen”. Of course, Merle resents having to work with “The Flake”. You’d think it would be easy enough for him to take her statement, thank her for her input, and move along with his day. But no, Merle acts like a jerk and picks a fight, telling her she either needs to get some professional help or a life. This just made him seem petty and small, which is probably why the author includes another cop character who’s even ruder toward Kelsey. I suppose if your hero is a clod, you have to show a bigger jerk to make him look good by comparison.
Of course, Kelsey gets mad and stomps off. She believes her vision is connected to a doll she recently purchased in an antique shop, a doll that, based on her vision, probably belonged to one of the Holiday Hooker victims. After Merle insults her, Kelsey contacts the shop and finds out that the owner purchased the doll in a pawn shop in the rough part of town. Genius that she is, Kelsey decides to go to this dangerous neighborhood on her own, which goes about as well as you’d expect. Lucky for her, Merle swoops in to her rescue, which is likely supposed to redeem him as a hero. I wasn’t buying it. In any case, they finally agree to work together on the murder investigation.
Things become less annoying after that, but the rest of the story is merely an acceptable, wholly unremarkable retelling of familiar material. The mystery isn’t much of one, because the killer’s identity is completely obvious. I would say that regular mystery readers will be able to easily identify the killer by following one of the basic rules of the genre, and even those who aren’t mystery readers should be able to figure it out.
The characters are reasonably developed, but lack spark. Merle has the usual traumatic childhood and he’s in love with his former partner, now married to another man. Kelsey has always had to deal with people being mean to her because of her psychic abilities. Fortunately, she had that old standby, the wise old granny who taught her to appreciate her talents. He’s stalwart; she’s vulnerable. Neither is compelling or all that interesting. They don’t have any real chemistry, but the romance proceeds believably enough.
I’m probably making this book sound worse than it is. It’s certainly not bad. Miller is a competent writer and it has all the right pieces. It’s just bland and unexceptional, and a less than average read. I spent more time thinking about the title than any part of the story. If Merle is both her partner and her protector, shouldn’t it be “Partner/Protector”? Or does it refer to the fact that she’s his partner and he’s her protector, so he’s “The Partner Protector”? It’s sad when a hyphen in the title is the most noteworthy part of the book.
The psychic heroine premise has been so overdone lately that I likely wouldn’t have bothered with this book had I not just read Sheri Whitefeather’s Always Look Twice, another psychic heroine/skeptical hero/serial killer book that, while flawed, was at least different and intriguing. It made me think that maybe interesting stories can be built from a common starting place. This book made me reevaluate that theory. Partner-Protector is the first book in Miller’s new miniseries The Precinct. Hopefully the following books are more interesting than this one. They would almost have to be.