Bestselling author Mary Burton (BEFORE SHE DIES and MERCILESS) ratchets up the tension in Texas as a cold case thaws. Seven years ago, Lara Church was the Seattle Strangler’s seventh victim, but she survived. Barely. Recalling none of the events, she’s been on the run to distance herself from a homicidal maniac she can’t identify: “For seven years, Lara had lived a gypsy’s life. Fear of settling had kept her moving from town to town.”
"[R]eaders are able to get into the minds of murderers and victims, as well as those of the dual protagonists. THE SEVENTH VICTIM is a thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride with curlicue plot twists and a breathtaking sudden-stop conclusion."
Inheriting her grandmother’s house near Austin, where she spent childhood summers, Lara now teaches photography classes. And she has a gruesome hobby: photographing recent murder landscape scenes with a 150-year-old bellows camera. At a kill site, Lara encounters Detective James Beck, who suspects Lara may have altered a crime scene that has the strangler’s M.O. Lara resents Beck’s arrogance, but she notices his “six-foot-six frame coupled with broad shoulders and a lean, muscled body. This close, the restrained power in his body made her skin tingle.”
Now there are startlingly similar homicides in Austin. Are they by a copycat killer? But how could someone in Texas know about an undisclosed specific coin left with each Seattle victim, and where Lara now lives? Those details bring Seattle cop Mike Raines to the Lone Star State. Texas testosterone, however, blurs a thin blue line when Beck muscles Mike out of the jurisdictional picture. There is a truckload of characters, some with motive to continue the Seattle Strangler’s legacy. But does the Texas Ranger with a questionable job suspension and white hat also wear a dark one?
A posh studio, Gallery 101, features Lara’s photographic art, and a newspaper reporter mentions she was the only Seattle victim to survive. The reporter ties in recent local murders. Everyone in Austin knows her identity --- and her past. Now, several homicides occur, each body after death is dressed in white and found clutching a 1983 penny. And each kill site creeps closer to Lara’s remote ranch. A scurrilous person drugs her protection dog Lincoln, threatening notes appear on her truck’s windshield at the university where she teaches, and someone slashes her tires. The Texas Rangers know that Lara is the target’s bullseye, but she refuses to go into hiding: “I don’t want to be a victim ever again. So I’ve learned to take care of myself.”
True to the Romantic Suspense genre, Lara Church allows feelings absent for seven years to rekindle, though there is far more suspense than romance. Myriad character points of view detract, but readers are able to get into the minds of murderers and victims, as well as those of the dual protagonists. THE SEVENTH VICTIM is a thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride with curlicue plot twists and a breathtaking sudden-stop conclusion.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on February 15, 2013