Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone has dedicated her career as a psychiatrist to exploring the darkest territory of all: the hearts and minds of serial killers. It’s a job she’s uniquely suited for, thanks to the secret talent that gives her an uncanny edge—Charlie can see dead people, whose tormented spirits cry out to her for the justice only she can provide. This blessing—or curse—gives Charlie the power to hunt down and catch madmen and murderers. It’s also turned her love life upside down by drawing her into a hopelessly passionate relationship with the lingering ghost of charismatic bad boy Michael Garland.
But there’s little time for romance with her supernatural suitor when murder comes pounding at Charlie’s door in the form of a terrified young woman fleeing a homicidal maniac. Saving her life places Charlie squarely in the cross-hairs of a sadistic predator nicknamed “the Gingerbread Man,” notorious for manipulating his victims like pawns in a deadly chess game. And now the queen this psychopath’s bent on capturing is Charlie. Refusal to play will only put more innocent lives in danger. Matching wits with this cunningly twisted opponent will require all of Charlie’s training and expert skills. But even with her devilish “guardian angel”—not to mention her favorite flesh-and-blood Fed, Tony Bartoli—watching her beautiful back, the Gingerbread Man’s horrifying grin might be the last thing Charlie ever sees. (Goodreads)
Karen Robards’ The Last Kiss Goodbye picks up not long after the events in The Last Victim. Dr. Charlotte Stone, expert criminal psychologist and medium, has survived the Boardwalk Killer’s attempt to take her life and she gained a ghostly companion-convicted serial killer Michael Garland. The story begins with Charlotte and Michael arguing. Which they do constantly throughout the book. When a young terrified woman interrupts their “foreplay”, Charlotte is shocked to learn that the woman is a victim of the notorious serial killer-The Gingerbread Man. Charlotte calls the police and her FBI contact/romantic interest, Tony Bartoli, and inserts herself into the investigation. Charlotte then begins the delicate balance of helping to catch a serial killer while trying to help prove Michael was unjustly accused of murder.
As with book one, the premise promises an exciting PNR thriller while the actual story and characters failed to engage me one hundred percent. It’s not that the overall story was bad; I just felt that the romance and main conflict fight so hard for dominance we end up cheated out of both. The story starts out energetic. We are immediately clued into the main conflict and an equally important sub plot. The suspense and anticipation amps up as we are led through the investigation. Though we are integrated a bit more into this investigation opposed to book one, we still fail to see the intricacies of the investigation, as this is told from Charlotte’s point of view. The suspense plot and subplots are once again overwhelmed by Charlotte and Michael’s romance. Or rather, the never ending dialogue about their romance.
The primary romance is still strange but actually more comfortable if only these two would stop with the dramatics and teenage angst. The entire book consists of Michael and Charlotte bickering back and forth with a healthy dose of sexual tension thrown in to keep the reader hooked. When Michael died, Charlotte is the last person to be with him and this develops a tether between them. Michael tries to stay with Charlotte but he is pulled to a shadow like realm that, from his descriptions, is similar to hell. Charlotte is trying everything she can to keep him with her. The chemistry is hot, but there is still a lot of emotional pontification in here that drags the story down. It has a forced feeling to it. Especially with Charlotte’s attempts at starting a relationship with the FBI agent. He really gets the short end of the stick in here. Charlotte continues to be attracted to Michael and extols his manly attributes, while at the same time berating herself for falling for a serial killer. In this storyline, clues are piling up that Michael may have indeed been framed for the murders but Charlotte is still on the fence about that.
The secondary characters continue to be rather one dimensional and only used to accessorize what is essentially Charlie’s and Michael’s story.The villain’s characterization was well done and I enjoyed the reveal as to the how and why of his murder spree but I felt not enough time was devoted to his part in the story. It all comes at you very quickly. The ending comes hard and fast, wrapping up the storyline and giving us a solid clues as to the reasons Michael was disappearing and where he and charlotte may go from here.
I had decided to give this series another chance because I know first books aren’t always the best indicator of the overall appeal to be had. Unfortunately, I found after reading this one that this is just not a series I want to continue.
Overall Rating: D+