A group of elite FBI special agents has been brought together to form the Cyber Action Team aka CAT - and they have one mission: to solve internet-related murders.
From his years in the FBI's violent crimes unit, Special Agent Dean Taggart has learned firsthand how vicious people can be. But this is the worst he's ever seen. Eight victims have been murdered, their final moments captured on film and shown on a secret Web site called Satan's Playground. And a madman who refers to himself as the Reaper is auctioning off their means of death.
When the investigation leads Dean to the small town of Hope Valley, he enlists the help of sexy and capable sheriff Stacey Rhodes, who's dealing with secrets of her own. It's too late to save the latest victim, but Dean and Stacey will have to work fast, because the Reaper's next auction is about to begin...
Leslie Parrish is Blaze author Leslie Kelly’s alter ego. This book is her romantic suspense debut. In a word, terrific. She takes the time to build the background on this FBI team without one big info dump, from the whistle-blowing team leader, to the IT specialists, to the street-smart Taggert. But not too much information was given. Just enough to see into the important people and just enough to intrigue me to find out more. Focus was definitely kept on the two main characters where it should be. Given that this is the first in a series, I assume more info will be given on each team member as the series progresses.
As for the residents of Hope Valley, Parrish also does a very good job of getting into their minds and motivations – giving enough information on each peron that the reader can see each as a potential suspect. I fully admit that I did not guess the culprit until I was supposed to do so. Well done, and not an easy task.
The two main characters are perfectly drawn. Both are flawed, real, human beings but competent and professional as well. Both have a strong sense of justice and family. While Dean is divorced, he wants nothing more than to spend more time with his son – in fact, he took the job with this rag-tag group in order to do just that. Stacey is incredibly smart, professional, and quick. Never losing her professionalism in a TSTL moment at the end and needing to be rescued. I loved that what drew Dean to her was her toughness and smarts, even before he actually saw her. And only then did he notice she was also attractive. And, although he admitted he felt protective of her, he acknowledged it and moved on, never going Tarzan on her, even when her house was broken into and violated.
I liked that both Dean and Stacey acted nothing less than professional while on the job, putting their murder case ahead of everything else. It’s not often that the H/H don’t stop off for a quickie somewhere on their way to or from a murder scene. When the situation warranted, they called for backup. Well done. The attraction was there between Dean and Stacey immediately, but they let it grow and develop into a serious case of like and respect as well. They both also showed a tremendous amount of compassion and strength.
Also well developed were the relationships between Stacey and her family and the rest of the Hope Valley residents. I thought that Parrish did a great job of showing what can happen to an injured Iraq vet, even one with family support, such as Stacey’s brother, and I applaud her for that. Also shown and not downplayed was the impact of domestic violence. She also showed the disdain that many still have for female law enforcement in the small-town south. But still wrote Stacey as smart, competent, professional, and yet, still feminine.
I loved Fade to Black. It had exactly the right mix of romance and suspense – very much like the first couple of Karen Rose books. Nothing was overdone. Nothing was caracatured. Pacing was good. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. It was smart, grotesque (yeah, I know, I’m freaky like that), urgent, and sexy. It involved internet crimes – something I can relate to (the internet, not the crime!). And while I understood the IT-speak of servers, etc in the book, I don’t think there was too much of it. It’s a smart, sexy book. I can’t wait to read the followup, Pitch Black. It’s out this week – August 4. I’m on my way to Borders to see if they have it out early.