As a guy, I'm not usually the first in line to pick up a book with a romance angle to it. It's just not my preferred area of reading. Lately, however, romance has been merging with the various genre breakouts, drifting into mystery, general fiction and even science fiction with more frequency, and it has been a cross-market boon.
Yes, ABSOLUTE FEAR has its romance flavors sprinkled within, but they are minimal and, in actuality, mere fragments in the mosaic of a much grander work. It is suspenseful, action-packed and exciting --- a thrill ride on a precarious ledge that opens up into the black soul of evil.
Eve Renner is haunted by a night three months earlier when her childhood friend, Roy, was killed, and she believes that her boyfriend, Cole, was responsible. As she falls into unconsciousness after being shot, Eve sees Cole's face but ultimately suffers amnesia. Once Cole is cleared of murder charges and set free, the killings resume.
Bodies are discovered having gone through horrible ritualistic mutilation, with numbers tattooed on them by "the Reviver," a psychopath who believes he's working for God. Detectives Reuben Montoya and Rick Bentz think that Cole is the guilty party, but they can't put together any evidence to hold him.
Eve, on the other hand, believes that the answers to the murders can be found in the dilapidated Our Lady of Virtues Mental Hospital. She faces a dangerous decision, however, when she realizes she may need help and the one person she may have to call on for aid is Cole.
Lisa Jackson has put together one heck of a thriller. The use of Eve and her amnesia could have been a standard, annoying plot device. But as the story comes to a head, Jackson utilizes a great metaphor in allowing readers to see the dark recesses of the asylum and the reawakening of memory in Eve's mind. The pieces all begin to fall into place, and the revelations are astounding.
The Reviver is a wickedly interesting and mesmerizing character. He is truly a sick individual, so Jackson's ability to write from his depraved perspective is commendable. Like Eve, the Reviver is both torn and broken yet strong when the time calls for it.
Although I have not read the other books in the Bayou series (which includes HOT BLOODED, COLD BLOODED and SHIVER), I did not feel at all that I was missing out on any major plot elements or information. Jackson does a great job of rounding out her characters and story well enough that ABSOLUTE FEAR can be read on its own. It is colored with romance, deception, hate, despair and a struggle for identity and understanding. Jackson has done an extraordinary job here, and readers will not come away disappointed.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 11, 2011