So today is a double feature. I've had One Scream Away in my TBR pile for a couple of months and finally decided to read it in preparation of Last To Die, whose blurb really appealed to me.
One Scream Away by Kate Brady
published by Grand Central Publishing in July 2009
One Step AwayGenre: romantic suspense
Seven years ago Beth Denison was attacked by a killer named Chevy Bankes. Since then, she's created a new life for herself and her daughter, one far removed from the night that ended in an awful tragedy. But now Bankes is out of prison, and his chilling phone calls tell Beth he's coming for her.
One Breath Away
Ex-FBI agent Neil Sheridan is driven to investigate a chain of murders eerily similar to a disturbing case from his past. When the killer's trail dead-ends at Beth's doorstep, Neil finds a beautiful woman with a secret she'll do anything to keep. Yet even as Beth surrenders to Neil's protection - and then his embrace - she still refuses to tell him why Bankes hungers to hear her scream, and why she'll soon consider doing the unthinkiable: face Bankes alone.
Series: Sheridan, Book #1
The Story: The blurb is pretty accurate. Seven years ago, Beth was kidnapped by Bankes and witnessed a murder and her testimony put him behind the bars. However, for some reasons, he is now out of prison and after her. He has started another killing spree and uses the cell phones his victims to contact Beth.
Neil Sheridan is an ex-FBI agent who spent the last few years doing bodyguard work overseas. However, his last job went wrong, landing his brother in the hospital. Neil is pulled into this new investigation because of the similarities to the case that ended his career. Following the trail leads to Beth... and her daughter.
My Opinion: Lately, all romantic suspense books I read, I tend to compare them to Karen Rose's books and she's set the standards pretty high ^_^; Not that it's a bad thing though. Truthfully, the reason why I bought One Scream Away was because it was published by Grand Central Publishing, same publisher as Karen Rose :P
Okay, review time. I thought that Ms Brady showed a lot of potential in this debut novel. I think the best part of the book was the suspense. The case and villain were chilling, gory and twisted and Ms Brady did a good job at fleshing the villain, so he would appear more than one-dimensional. At the end, I couldn't help but sympathize with the villain a little, for what he went through and what made him deranged. It doesn't excuse what he's done, but it's good to know what was behind it. In that aspect, Ms Brady's style is quite similar to Ms Rose's.
Unfortunately, Ms Brady has a major weakness: her characters. It's not that they are TSTL or boring. Truth be, they are actually quite interesting. Beth and Neil have both gone through difficult period in their lives and the strength necessary to come on top was unbelievable. However, that's not enough... The real problem to me was that Ms Brady didn't develop Beth and Neil's backgrounds and personalities enough. They are given characteristics, but it was never really flesh out - unlike the villain. For example, Neil just came back to the States, after leaving the Sentry. What really happened? How is his relationship with his brother now? Is Mitch really angry? What is he going to do then? How did he lose his job/quit at the FBI. Readers are given the information, but Ms Brady never delves deeper into the details. As a result, Beth and Neil didn't seem real enough and so, I never really connect with them... or any other characters. There is a scene where Neil's best friend dies... and that should have been heart-breaking, but I didn't feel the impact of his loss emotionally. It was "Oh, he died."
As for the romance, I thought it was so-so. Personally, it felt abrupt to me. I didn't feel the chemistry between Beth and Neil. In the beginning, it seemed very improbable that anything would develop between them. Neil is after Beth because she's concealing information and she's concerned for her daughter's safety... and the next minute, Neil is lusting for Beth and suddenly, Beth is ready to accept Neil. Also, I felt that Neil was accepting Beth's daughter a bit too easily, given his past. I'm not saying the romance wasn't nice, but quite frankly, it just felt improbable with everything going on and the short timeline. I think it would have worked better for me if the relationship had been a bit more platonic and Beth and Neil work at getting to know each other better after the events of One Scream Away.
My Grade: C+. Ms Brady is definitively writing books in the genre that suits her and as I mentioned earlier, has shown a lot of potential in this debut novel. Of course, there are elements to improve, but I believe that when she will, she'll be a force to reckon, an author not to miss :P
Last to Die by Kate Brady
published by Grand Central Publishing in September 2010
No WarningGenre: romantic suspense
A ruthless killer hides in plain sight, portraying the ideal citizen while hatching a horrific plan. Sins of the past have come to light and now the time is right for revenge. Six desperate women will be brutally murdered as punishment for the secrets they've kept hidden...
Detective Dani Cole is devastated to discover that a young woman viciously killed in a local park was someone whose life she'd helped redeem. Her investigation becomes even more personal when it leads her to Mitch Sheridan, a renowned photo-journalist. The two share a painful past... and an attraction that sparks as they race to find the killer. But danger is much closer than anyone imagines. For in the shadows, this calculating has a new target: Dani Cole.
Series: Sheridan, Book #2
The Story: Mitch Sheridan is a renowned photo-journalist who's traveled the world in an effort to expose other countries' suffering. However, things have gone wrong during his stay at Ar Rutbah where Mitch was gravely injured... and since then, he's lost his passion for photography. Only the death of his mentor brings Mitch back home - to find out the circumstances of the death and to do one final exhibition. The last person he expects to cross path again is his first love, Dani Cole.
To say Dani Cole is going through a rough patch is an understatement. It's always been hard to be a cop when your father is a cop who was known to accept bribes from the mob, it's even harder after he's blown his head in your guest room. So her job is on the line, then she loses one of her protégées - a young troubled woman who used to be a prostitute - and her only suspect is her first love's mentor ^_^; On top of it all, she has to face her old flame again - the perfect guy she had to dump because she couldn't trust her heart... Of course, if things can get worst, they will... and that's how Dani finds herself the next target of a serial killer...
My Opinion: Last To Die is Ms Brady's second novel and I picked it up because the blurb sounded really good. Already, it feels like Last To Die is tighter and better than One Scream Away.
What Ms Brady did well in One Scream Away, she does well again in Last To Die. I definitively have no complaint about the suspense. In fact, mixing everything together, it felt like the plot was more complex. The villain might have been revealed a bit early, but I don't think it took away from the suspense at all. Also, there was a twist in the book and I have to say, wow :P
I think where we can see improvement is the romance. I thought that Dani and Mitch had much more chemistry than Beth and Neil. Perhaps it's due to the fact that Dani and Mitch already knew each other and have been in love in the past. I felt that they knew and understood each other well and that made the romance more believable.
While I think the characters were better developed in Last To Die, the characterization is still lacking. Mitch's personality was better fleshed out this time around; however, I would have liked to see his past and family background expanded more. In One Scream Away, we were introduced to Neil, Mitch's older brother... and yet, I still can't describe the brotherhood between the two. They don't seem to get along well, despite a good childhood. And both have a younger sister that's barely been mentioned. Same thing with Dani. I also feel that the author doesn't need to make the characters background too complicated. More complex doesn't mean more interesting or easy to connect and it doesn't necessarily develop them.
So writing-wise, I think that Last To Die was better. The deal breaker unfortunately for my enjoyment was Dani's character. She wasn't very likable ^_^; I cannot pinpoint exactly what it was, but she just rubbed me the wrong way. I have to say, I didn't really like the way she treated people, although as a cop, it sometime made sense. I think overall it was the way she looked at life - I just didn't like her perception of it and how strong she had to be. That's why she broke up with Mitch the first time around, because she didn't want to rely or trust him, even though things were going badly. Sometimes, it's something to admire, but other times, it just feel like being stubborn for nothing. Especially when the guy is so great.
My Grade: B-. I enjoyed the suspense part and Mitch. I wanted more from the characters, but I do feel it's something that Ms Brady can achieve. This would definitively have been a B if I'd have liked Dani better ^_^;