Rating: 4.5 Stars
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
This is How Romantic Suspense Should Be
Assistant state's attorney Kristen Mayhew is fiercely dedicated to bringing criminals to justice, driven by a past that still haunts her. She keeps herself closed off from everyone, keeps herself restrained and works herself to the bone, sacrificing everything for the job. Then one night, a flat tire and a run in with homicide detective Abe Reagan lead to a grim discovery in the trunk of her car and the realization that a murderous vigilante is stalking the streets...and Kristen. He calls himself her humble servant, but as the body count rises and the crimes become more and more heinous, Reagan and his partner become more and more concerned that the killer is losing any semblance of control and whatever sick admiration he has for Kristen may become threatening. Abe is determined to protect the fascinating and composed Kristen. It's his job, after all...and she's becoming his passion.
It's been awhile since I've read a book by Karen Rose and now I'm annoyed that I let so much time pass, because she's excellent at the craft. With I'm Watching You she's written a complete and well-rounded police procedural and a satisfying romance that delivers entertainment with a slick, seductive style. The book is robust in plotting, pacing, and character development, and uses every page of its impressive length to draw the reader along a twisted path of victimization and heroism without bogging down in technical criminology, as some police procedurals can do. There was a layer of moral ambiguity threaded throughout the criminal aspects of the plot and I thought it was deftly handled. Vicious crimes being perpetrated on the arguably deserving limits righteousness as a motivator and draws into closer scrutiny the precarious balance between the right thing and the just thing.
Even with the tense, tight plotting of the arc of suspense in this book, it was the wide array of characters, all of them fully fleshed out and real, that were the driving force of this book for me. Kristen and Abe were easy to relate to and appealing, and I love that we were given time to really delve into their backstory and history. It made them very three dimensional. The secondary and ancillary characters were handled with similar aplomb, and are so real and so human that they practically step off the pages and sit down beside you. Instead of dipping into a well of cliched stereotypes to fill the character stable, Rose created people you can imagine meeting in everyday life, and that was a particular treat. It is through the characters - primary, secondary, and ancillary - with their fears, frustrations, and fragile hopes, that the story breathes and extends beyond the limits of plotting and story and becomes memorable.
There were really only a few minor issues that took a wee bit from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I had an issue with Kristen concerning the habit she had of speaking her thoughts aloud without realizing it. Every time she did that I found it jarring and unrealistic. Who speaks without realizing they've spoken? Once or twice I could forgive, but after a while it just felt like a bad way to get character thoughts and feelings expressed. And without giving any spoilers, I had an issue with the motivation of the vigilante and his emotional commitment given the scope of the relationship he had with a victim. It seemed a little more insanely invested than I could understand. Those were really just minor issues, though, and didn't take away but a smidgen of my overall appreciation for the incredibly complex plotting, the decadent characterizations, and a complete reading experience that was thoroughly entertaining.
I certainly won't be waiting so long before my next exciting romantic suspense by Karen Rose.