With a title like Shiver, I expected to find a chilling, suspenseful read. The problem with having expectations is that it too often sets me up for disappointment. While I settled in for a creepy read, what I found was a serviceable thriller that offered too few actual thrills.
When she was fifteen, Abby Chastain’s mother fell to her death from the window of her room at Our Lady of Virtues Hospital, the mental asylum where she’d been committed. Abby was there to visit her mother that day and is still haunted by what happened. Twenty years later, she’s a divorcee dealing with her contentious ex-husband Luke. The radio shock jock made a career out of misogyny, and when he learns she threw out some of his belongings after he neglected to pick them up several months after the divorce, he uses his show to attack her on the air. Soon after, he’s found murdered with another woman in what first appears to be a murder-suicide, but is soon ruled to be a double homicide.
Detective Reuben Montoya is the lead detective on the case. His investigation naturally leads him to Abby. When another double murder occurs, it becomes clear they’re dealing with a serial killer, one who may be connected to Our Lady of Virtues Hospital and Abby’s mother.
This is Lisa Jackson’s hardcover debut, but the book itself may be better suited for paperback. It felt very much like one of those softcovers travelers come across in airport shops when all they’re looking for is something to keep them occupied during a long trip. In that respect, the book will more than suffice. It’s generally well-written and did a decent job holding my attention from beginning to end. I just wouldn’t necessarily expect much more than that.
While I didn’t mind reading it, the story wasn’t all that compelling. There are a few effectively ominous and atmospheric sections, but on the whole, the book is never as suspenseful as it should be. It’s rather leisurely paced, not to mention overlong. The killer spends a lot of time skulking outside Abby’s house, which could have been suspenseful but wasn’t. There’s a plethora of secondary characters, with more seeming to be introduced as the book goes along, none of whom are all that interesting. Then again, the only reason most of them exist is to serve as cannon fodder. A serial killer book needs victims, so there are all these barely developed characters running around who aren’t worth getting attached to since they virtually have targets painted on their foreheads. I didn’t really care about any of the victims, which prevented the plot from having the impact it should have. The mystery doesn’t contain many surprises, and though the killer’s method of picking victims is interesting, the revelation of who it is feels fairly random and anticlimactic.
There’s enough of a love story that the book qualifies as romantic suspense, but I doubt many romance readers will find it all that satisfying. There’s an instant spark between them and they’re both interested in each other, but the attraction is kept in the background for a long while as they deal with the plot. Eventually, the obligatory sex scene arrives, and in the end, they appear to be in love. It all felt rather perfunctory and not the slightest bit emotionally engaging. Part of the problem is that the same can be said of the characterization. You’d think 400+ pages would be long enough to develop the main characters into living, breathing human beings who the reader can know intimately and come to truly care about. Abby remains fairly stiff, and Montoya’s just a generic cop hero. I gather he appeared in one of the author’s previous books. Maybe he was more charismatic there. They’re inoffensive, but I can’t say I cared about them one way or another.
I fear I’m making this book sound worse that it is. It was a fairly painless read that I got through easily enough. It just wasn’t nearly as thrilling as you’d expect, or want, a suspense novel to be. All things considered, Shiver is merely an acceptable way to pass some time and not much else.