Drop Dead Gorgeous

Dying to Have Her

Glory
Killing Kelly

The Last Noel

Long, Lean and Lethal

Night of the Blackbird

Picture Me Dead

Surrender

Suspicious

Tall, Dark & Deadly

 
Deadly Night
by Heather Graham
(Mira, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-7783-2585-7
***
Three brothers inherit a plantation in Louisiana from a relative who they hadn't even known existed. The first thing Aidan, Zachary, and Jeremy Flynn discover is that being structurally sound is about all the place has going for it. The second is that it's haunted. Truly, not just the blanket haunting granted to most old plantations according to lore. Although the three men – all retired from various law enforcement careers – scoff at the idea, events and a woman named Kendall Montgomery go a long way toward proving them wrong.

Aidan's the cranky brother anyway, and since the first thing he does on his property is find a human thigh bone, he's made even less enthusiastic about the brothers' renovation plans. The whacko woman, Kendall Montgomery, who had been staying at the plantation with his ailing aunt, doesn't help. She claims Amelia saw lights in the yard and spoke to some unseen person in her bedroom in the weeks before she died. Kendall swears up and down that she doesn't believe in such things either, but the fact that she owns a fortunetelling shop really racks up the points against her.

By accident or providence, depending upon which character you'd ask, Aidan and his brothers stumble across a case involving women who've gone missing in New Orleans while on extended vacations, women who have little or no family to notice immediately that something's wrong. Aidan, a former FBI agent, makes a nuisance of himself with local law enforcement and the local FBI office trying to track down information on the missing girls, hoping that they aren't going missing on his family's land and knowing in his gut that that's exactly what's happening.

Kendall, on the other hand, is sticking less to physical research and is getting visions and odd dreams – things which she has never taken into account before that are all of a sudden too realistic to ignore. Kendall becomes convinced that the Flynn plantation is indeed haunted – and that its ghosts are reaching out to her, specifically the ghosts of a Civil War bride chased from her own balcony and the dedicated servant who rescued Fiona's orphaned son.

The melange of plotlines is unnecessary and distracting, and does occasionally take focus off the theme of Deadly Night: the haunted Flynn family home. Aside from the haunting (which doesn't get all that much attention until the last fifty pages of the book), there is the investigation of the missing girls, following the recent disappearance of another woman, uncovering the tragic story behind Fiona Flynn's death, Aidan and Kendall's odd relationship, and Kendall coming into new powers (or whatever that is). To further muddy the waters, Aidan suspects pretty much every one of Kendall's friends and there are numerous scenes that revolve strictly around that. Graham has added in a handful of characters to throw readers off-track, which is good given how easy figuring out who the killer is anyway, but too much information is given about their lives.

Deadly Night is not a bad read, and I'll certainly read Jeremy's and Zach's stories. As always, Graham delves expertly into history. The scenes involving or about the hauntings are heart-rending. Though some of the (many) peripheral characters are wooden, the primary ones stand out. However, many of the interpersonal relationships never come to fruition, which is disappointing considering the sheer number of characters. Deadly Night reads quickly. The beginning will suck readers in, and though the meat of the book may lag a little bit, you'll never find yourself ambivalent about what happens. The assortment of characters will please some and annoy others, but the colorful New Orleans backdrop is absorbing and the basic premise – a good old-fashioned ghost story – is classic for a reason. For anyone who enjoys romantic suspense or a taste of the Gothic, Deadly Night is destined to please.

--Sarrah Knight


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