Dark Emerald

Dark Ruby

Dark Sapphire

A Family Kind of Guy

A Fortune's Children Christmas

Hot Blooded

Twice Kissed

Unspoken

Whispers

 
Cold Blooded by Lisa Jackson
(Zebra, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-6934-0
****
I expect I’ll have nightmares tonight. This suggests that Lisa Jackson’s new thriller did what it was supposed to do: scare the bejeebers out of me. If Cold Blooded didn’t work quite as well as a romance, well, we can’t have everything.

Cold Blooded is set in New Orleans and is sort of a sequel to last year’s Hot Blooded. The hero is Detective Rick Bentz who in the previous book tracked down the Rosary Killer, a psychopath who was terrorizing the city. But a homicide detective’s work is never done and poor New Orleans is about to discover that another madman is at work in the Crescent City. He calls himself the “Chosen One” and we know from the start that he has targeted Bentz’s eighteen year old daughter, Kristi.

The heroine is Olivia Benchet. A native of Louisiana, she had returned the previous summer when her beloved grandmother had gotten ill. She is staying because she inherited her Granny’s house and because she is studying psychology at Tulane. Her grandmother had possessed the “sight” and apparently Olivia has inherited this “gift.” Gift is clearly the wrong word because since she has returned to Louisiana, Olivia is having visions of violent murders of women.

One night she has an especially vivid dream of a woman being tortured and beheaded. She goes to the police headquarters and asks for Detective Bentz. She had previously reported her visions only to be dismissed as a loony. But she hopes that perhaps Bentz will be more open to her information. Bentz is originally skeptical, but when the body of a woman murdered and burned exactly as Olivia described turns up, the detective has to begin to take her seriously.

The suspense centers on the desperate efforts to find the killer. Olivia and her visions are the best hope the police have. Perhaps the murderer has some personal connection to her. Gradually the police realize they are dealing with a truly warped mind, a psychopath who ritually kills women as saints of old were martyred. Jackson certainly has created a scary villain.

Jackson also manages to keep the reader guessing about who the murderer is. She provides a number of plausible candidates, all of whom might be the “Chosen One.” Serial killers are a staple of thrillers and romantic suspense, but this one is a particularly gruesome creation.

The romance is, as noted above, less compelling than the suspense. Rick finds himself attracted to this unusual woman but he is carrying lots and lots of baggage. When their mutual attraction leads to something more, Rick backs off. Olivia has her own baggage: a less than happy childhood, bad luck with previous relationships, and her own conflicted feelings. Given the nature of the story, there isn’t much time for the author to develop their relationship.

Readers who have an aversion to graphic violence should definitely avoid this book. Likewise, readers who prefer that romance rather than suspense take pride of place in the books they read may not enjoy Cold Blooded. But anyone who enjoys a well-crafted thriller which keeps them on the edge of the chair should find Cold Blooded a real page turner. I haven’t come across as scary a serial killer since Dream Man.

--Jean Mason


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