William Faulkner once wrote: “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” These words certainly hold true for the heroine of Mariah Stewart’s latest thriller in which she takes the reader on an exciting ride into the world of a crime-fighter touched in her own life by crime.
Kendra Smith is a freelance compositor who is often hired to develop portraits of suspects for the FBI. On her latest case, she is working with FBI agent Adam Stark to develop a reliable portrait of a serial killer targeting single mothers in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey area. Kendra devotes herself to her work as it allows her to help bring closure to families touched by crime – a closure denied her own family since her younger brother’s unsolved kidnapping years earlier.
As Kendra and Adam work feverishly to ensure that the serial killer is caught before he strikes again, it becomes apparent that the killer has an interest in Kendra herself. She becomes the target of strange phone calls and other ominous events and, as the murder investigation unfolds, questions begin to arise about her family and its past tragedies.
As all of these events occur, it also becomes apparent that Kendra and Adam – who dated briefly in the past, but haven’t seen each other in years – are interested in one another. However, even though the two begin to explore the old attraction, there is more of a promise of romance to come rather than a a romance in the present, a believable lack of intensity given the all consuming nature of the situation in which Kendra and Adam find themselves. In fact, the balance of romance to suspense here is probably more realistic than in many romantic suspense novels.
However, the intense nature of the plotline did not translate into an action-packed read. The plot seemed to flow along in a pattern of killing, talk about killing, talk about life in general, rinse and repeat. Though the book was basically well-written, I plodded through it and put it down often. The villain or villains were not immediately obvious to me, but the story, its victims, and its protagonists were so wooden that it was hard to even care who was out to get them and why.
Another irksome matter was the blandness of the hero and heroine. Kendra is a good and devoted daughter of a former senator who has icky things happen to her and who never seems to come to life. When she speaks, her voice is no different than anyone else’s in the book and there is nothing else about her to mark her out in a crowd. Then there’s Adam the All-American. He’s dashing and handsome – a former Pittsburgh Steeler who quit the team to serve in the FBI – and he loves his family. No one mentions his Eagle Scout award, but I bet it’s out there. He’s perfect (and perfectly boring) and it’s hard for the reader to feel any closeness with him.
While this book is not bad, it is only average. Therefore, in the midst of the many really good romantic suspense novels out there, Until Dark ranks merely as a “Why Bother?” sort of read. If you are truly devoted to the genre or have a thing for FBI heroes, you may like this one, but it is certainly not one of the best of what is out there on the shelves.