The Gingerbread Man
I credit Maggie Shayne for getting me hooked on vampire romances. Her Wings in the Night series were the first vampire romances I read, and in my mind, the best. To my knowledge, this is her first foray into full-length romantic suspense, and it’s a good start.
Vince O’Mally is a Syracuse, New York, detective who is sent out of town on vacation after a particularly bad case. Vince had been looking for two missing children and made the mistake of promising their mother that he would find them and everything would be fine, something he knew better than to do. After finding their bodies in a grisly scene (readers are thankfully spared the description), Vince finds an old library book stuck under the floorboards. This clue leads him to a small town called Dilmun. Vince goes there ostensibly for the R&R he has been ordered to take, but all the while he secretly works on his case. Vince is driven, and he has to find the killer. In Dilmun, Vince meets Holly Newman and finds out that she has a connection to his case. The seemingly fragile Holly at first tries to stay away from Vince, because he’s triggering her old fears and nightmares. When someone goes after them both, she decides to face her fears and help him solve the case.
I really liked Holly. at first, I didn’t think I would because she seemed like a weepy, fragile character. But once she decided to face her fears and fight back, she became a woman to be reckoned with. Holly’s connection to Vince’s case is through an incident in her past that is revealed about a third of the way into the book involving a death in her immediate family.
Vince is desperate to solve the case and bring this sick killer to justice. After messing up and getting too personally involved he’s now trying to keep his emotional distance, and that includes keeping it from Holly. Vince doesn’t want to be her savior, hero or emotional crutch, especially since he seems to have a weakness for women who need him.
Vince resists Holly as hard as he can, but it’s inevitable that he’ll give in to his attraction. Their love scene is fast and furious, but it’s not lacking in emotional heat. They make a good pair and complement each other, and I liked seeing them work together to find the killer, even before they were romantically together.
I give Shayne props for creating a suspense story that works. Her red herrings are real ones, and I never got a good feel for the killer until I was close to the end. There’s a very dark-and-stormy night feel to the book, complete with an old horror-movie actor who lives in a spooky mansion. The climax was suspenseful but not drawn out, something that frequently occurs in suspense novels. And while the suspense was very good, it didn’t overpower the romance. I found myself as interested in the conclusion to the romance and family aspects as I was to the conclusion of the case.
The Gingerbread Man is a pretty even balance of romance and suspense. While the secondary characters aren’t as interesting as Vince and Holly, they serve their purpose to advance the story. The Gingerbread Man is scary enough so that October is the perfect month for it to be released. Shayne successfully moves into a different area of romance, and I hope she continues with it. And on another note, I would like to take a moment to let fans of the Wings in the Night series to know that another one will be out in December. Thank you, Maggie!