The Perfect Victim
This was my first Linda Castillo, and I’m impressed. Marketed as a romantic suspense, it is both romantic and suspenseful – and in nearly equal measures. While the hero’s unrelenting anguish became a little too much by the end of the story, it was true to his character, so I’m still fairly comfortable with it. If you’re looking for a real page-turner with a strong and determined heroine, and an even stronger, even more determined hero, you’ve found it.
Addison Fox was adopted as an infant. She never knew her birth parents and has no idea why she was given up. Even though she adores her adoptive parents, she is nonetheless curious and begins to research her past, hoping to find out who she is and where she came from. Her adoptive parents were wonderful, showering her with love and affection, giving her the perfect childhood right up until the minute they died together in a freak car accident. It’s been nine months since their deaths, and now, without any family at all, Addison is more determined than ever to find her birth mother.
Randall Talbot is on an enforced leave from the National Transportation Safety Board based in Washington, D.C. As a high-ranking, top-notch first-on-the-scene investigator, Randall is suffering from burn-out. He’s seen too much, hurts too deeply, and, in an effort to dull the pain and the nightmares, has become a borderline alcoholic. His leave-of-absence has brought him to Denver to work with his wheelchair-bound older brother, Jack, who operates a small private investigation firm. Randall meets Addison when she tries to hire the firm to help investigate her birth mother. The meeting does not go well.
Through another means, Addison does discover her birth mother’s name and location. She flies across the country, not knowing what she’ll find, but remains determined to get to the bottom of her own beginnings. The last thing she expects to discover, however, is that Agnes Beckett, her birth mother, was brutally murdered just three weeks earlier. The trail has come to an abrupt halt – or so it seems.
A month has passed since Randall insulted Addison, but he hasn’t forgotten her. In an effort to make amends, he goes to her coffee boutique just in time to save her life. An apparent robbery attempt is thwarted by Randall when he pulls his gun and shoots back. The robber flees. But why didn’t he take the money, and why did he point his gun directly at Addison as though he wanted to kill her and nothing more?
Randall and Addison join forces to try to figure all this out. As they work through the mysteries of the past, they are in danger every second. Mutual attraction turns to mutual lust, but Randall is such an emotional wreck, he hurts Addison even when he’s trying to help her. Their love story is believable, their emotions realistic. Randall is not an easy hero to like, but it’s not for his lack of trying.
This book is well written, fast-paced, interesting, and fully developed. No strings are left untied, and there are many. The villain is a true slime-ball. As is the case with most suspense stories, some nice people are murdered or hurt before the bad guy is caught, and Addison must watch as her world crumbles around her. All she has is Randall, who, despite his own pain, knows how to come through when the chips are down.
The very few problems I had with this book can be named in just this one paragraph: too much angst for Randall and birth control. Hello? This is 2002. What single, adult man and/or woman out there does not give sexual protection even a passing thought? For the hero and heroine in a contemporary romance to not even think of birth control is unrealistic. Given the maturity of the characters and the credibility of the rest of the story, this does not ring true at all.
Having said that, this is a very good, solid read, and I can recommend it without hesitation.