The Last Victim
Karen Robards is the author of over 40 bestselling novels that have been described as falling somewhere between the mystery and romance genres. She has been one of the most popular voices in women’s fiction, and with the release of her latest novel introduces readers to one of the most unique protagonists ever.
When Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone was 16, she experienced a horrific tragedy. Trapped in the basement bathroom of a high school friend named Holly, she was powerless to do anything while a crazed serial killer is torturing Holly’s family. When the bloodbath was over, Holly’s entire family was murdered and Holly herself kidnapped.
"This hybrid novel entertains and surprises throughout and effectively provides a different take on the over-saturated serial killer genre."
It was shortly thereafter that Holly’s body was found --- the latest victim of a monster labeled the Boardwalk Killer. Boardwalk followed a familiar routine, as most serial killers do, of torturing and killing entire families and kidnapping their teenage daughters. Unfortunately, the girls also turn up dead as Boardwalk moves on to his next family.
An experience like this would psychologically break most people. But not Charlie Stone. Instead, she obtains a Doctorate in Psychology and becomes an expert on serial killers. She often lends herself to local law enforcement, and the novel opens with her conducting research on the mind of serial killers by interviewing a group of them currently in prison on death row.
I forgot to mention: Being an expert on serial killers is far from Charlie’s greatest talent. She also “sees dead people.” This term, taken from the classic film The Sixth Sense, has become an overused cliché but accurately describes her paranormal abilities. It seems that recent victims of horrific violence often reveal themselves to her, and she has been able to use this unique insight in her own research. While Charlie has benefited from the notoriety attained by being a subject matter expert, she has been forced to keep her true talents hidden for fear of having her credibility shattered.
While in a local North Carolina prison conducting her serial killer interview, she is approached by a team of FBI agents --- led by Tony Bartoli --- who need Charlie’s help. Not only do they have a serial killer case that requires her assistance, it shows all the earmarks of being the Boardwalk Killer. It has been 15 years since he last struck, but Charlie is the last living victim who can potentially identify him or help the FBI label the current killer as a mere copycat. In any event, a teenage girl is missing, and the clock is ticking on their being able to find her alive.
While Charlie’s head is spinning from this latest news, another tragic event occurs that will rock her world. The serial killer she last interviews in prison, Michael Garland, is murdered by another inmate shortly after their discussion. Instead of moving into the light, his soul attaches itself to Charlie; for the rest of the novel, she is haunted by the charismatic killer. Their relationship is odd, to say the least, and goes places I guarantee no one would ever expect a human-ghost interaction to lead.
With all of this going on, the question still remains: Will Charlie, her FBI mates and the not-so kindred spirit of Michael Garland be able to stop the Boardwalk Killer before he strikes again? This hybrid novel entertains and surprises throughout and effectively provides a different take on the over-saturated serial killer genre.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 10, 2012