Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #3
Length: 353 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
Madness and murder invaded Dr. Charlotte Stone’s life when she was just a girl—and made her a woman determined to save others from the horror she survived. An expert in the psychology of serial killers, she’s faced down more than her share of human monsters. But Charlie can also communicate with the spirits of those who die violently, an extrasensory skill that has helped the FBI bring lethal predators to justice. Now, after narrowly escaping death a second time, Charlie’s ready to step away from the edge . . . before her luck runs out.
Too bad Charlie is too dedicated for her own good—and too devoted to federal agent Tony Bartoli to say no when he asks her to ride shotgun on yet another risky mission. Of course, she already has her hands full with Michael Garland: the handsome, roguish ghost with whom she’s hopelessly in love—a spirit who depends on Charlie to keep him from slipping forever into the dark side of the afterlife. But in the mortal world, beautiful single women are vanishing from Las Vegas hotels at night. All signs indicate that a psychopath is on the prowl in Sin City, and Bartoli’s FBI colleague Lena Kaminsky has reason to fear that her missing sister may be just the killer’s type.
In a town full of fast players and few rules, flushing out a smooth-talking stalker like the Cinderella Killer might be a loser’s game. But for Charlie, the only way to cage her quarry is to plunge back into the homicidal hell she vowed to leave behind—and may not leave alive.
I can definitely say that Karen Robards Charlie Stone series makes for compelling reading. I started Her Last Whisper in the morning, and couldn’t keep myself from grabbing it at every opportunity; breaks, lunch, bus rides, making dinner, eating dinner, (taking the book to the bathroom with me…) etc. I finished before bedtime, because I couldn’t wait that long to wrap it up.
But there are definitely points where it’s compelling like watching a three-car pileup on the expressway. It’s horrific and you can’t turn your eyes away. It’s a train-wreck book.
First, Charlie falls in love with a ghost. It’s not the first time I’ve read this particular trope, and it can work. Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed is a great example of a story where this trope does work.
But, Dr. Charlie Stone is also a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. She went into that particular line of work because she survived a serial killer when she was a child. But then she goes and falls in love with one of the serial killers she is studying. OK, that actually happens, sort of.
But Charlie goes the “falling for an inmate” trope several stages further. Charlie also sees dead people. And the serial killer that she has fallen for is the aforementioned ghost. She knows this whole scenario is too stupid to live, she even calls herself out on that, but she continues anyway.
And for the cherry on the sundae, Charlie works with an elite FBI unit that chases serial killers, and one of the very much alive FBI agents wants to make their relationship personal. But Charlie is way too hung up on the gorgeous dead guy to give the equally gorgeous living one a chance.
Into this mess we throw the hunt for another serial killer. In this case, the case gets much too close to home, as the serial killer has kidnapped the sister of one of the other FBI agents, and eventually grabs Charlie’s friend as well.
So Charlie keeps dividing her attention between the sexy ghost that follows her every move, and the serial killer that she needs to find before he kills again.
Her Last Whisper should be a thriller about the serial killer. The case is plenty gruesome, especially with the personal angles thrown in. Whoever this guy is, he’s been kidnapping women off the very busy streets of Las Vegas for two years, and it isn’t until the FBI shows up that anyone even figures out that there IS a serial killer.
But the focus, instead is on the relationship between Charlie and Michael Garland, her drop-dead-sexy-but-mostly-just-dead convicted serial killer. Charlie spends most of her energy trying to determine whether Garland was really guilty, and figuring out ways to keep his ghost from going to Spookyville, because whatever he did it made him ineligible for heaven. After six weeks of Garland hanging around, Charlotte has come to rely on his help in her cases, and has fallen head over heels for a man she absolutely can’t have.
Which doesn’t keep her from trying (and occasionally briefly succeeding) through each twist and turn of a very nasty case.
Escape Rating B-: I have to give points for extreme readability. This series is addicting, quite possibly in the way that chocolate is addicting. Or maybe like some kind of drug. Once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, you absolutely have to keep going. Just when you’re sure it can’t get any crazier, it does.
Unlike the previous book in the series, The Last Kiss Goodbye (reviewed here), the hunt for the live serial killer carries equal weight with the angst about keeping her dead serial killer attached to this world. The case that she and the team are trying to solve is chilling, thrilling and disgusting in equal turns.
But Charlie involves a friend who is also psychic in her increasingly desperate attempts to keep Michael Garland around. That involvement makes her friend a target for the live serial killer, just upping the ante on how crazy things get.
As the story progressed, I thought I figured out how the author was going to manage to pull a happy ending rabbit-trick out of relationship-with-the-dead hat. But as the story ended (on a horrific cliffhanger) I decided that I had been on the wrong track.
How many live serial killers can Charlie survive while she continues to be distracted by her feelings for a dead one? Tune in next year (I hope it’s next year and not longer) to find out. I know I will. I’m compelled!