Before reading Touching Evil make sure to turn on the lights and lock the doors, because Hooper has created a story with a mood of terror that will seep into your very bones.
Maggie Barnes is a sketch artist for the Seattle police department. She has a special empathic skill that allows her to see and feel what the victim did. It gives her the ability to draw startlingly accurate sketches of criminals. Maggie is now working with the latest victims of a serial rapist. The problem is that none of the victims saw anything because the rapist removed their eyes. Maggie feels a unique connection with victims of this particular criminal, and senses that she failed to stop him in a previous lifetime.
John Garrett is also interested in catching this monster. His sister, the second victim, was apparently driven to commit suicide as a result of the attack and now John wants answers. He sees Maggie as his best bet, as she was one of the last people to speak with his sister. Using his money and political connections he is allowed to sit in on the case and bring in two friends from a special FBI unit, first mentioned in Hooper’s Shadows books. At first he’s just in Maggie’s way, but soon she comes to trust John and use his resources to help catch the rapist, who has now started killing his victims in a most brutal manner.
Touching Evil is a suspense story with a romance tacked on. As long as the focus of the story is focused on catching the villain and how the police go about doing that, things are wonderful. Hooper sets up an atmosphere of absolute terror. The monster she describes could exist and his crimes, for all their brutality, are plausible.
As for the romance? Hooper would have been better to have left it alone. Neither John nor Maggie are compelling on their own. Maggie is abrasive and rude. Yes, the reader understands that due to her empathic abilities she can’t let anyone get too close, but that’s doesn’t make her abrupt and cranky behavior any more likable. John is a little better. A disbeliever who is learning the hard way that psychic abilities exist, he is cynical at first. But he asks questions (obviously designed to give the reader insight to Maggie’s abilities) and listens to what others are saying. Unfortunately there is little chemistry between these two and their relationship seemed very forced.
I found myself much more interested in the secondary characters, such as Quentin, an FBI agent with the ability to know things before they happen. I was also intrigued by Maggie’s brother Beau, a talented artist who can see the future, and his mysterious guest Galen. I was happy to read a cameo appearance by Bishop and his wife, Miranda, from Out of the Shadows.
Even though I really enjoyed the mystery, the final climax was sullied by Maggie’s TSTL behavior, which in a moment caused all the danger of the situation to feel contrived. I give a qualified recommendation to Touching Evil, but don’t look for a compelling romantic sub-plot or an entirely plausible ending.