Anne Marie McCall is a psychologist and one of the FBI's most skilled profilers. She is still grieving for her dead fiance, Special Agent Dylan Shields, who was killed more than two years earlier in an undercover operation that turned sour. Pennsylvania Detective Evan Crosby is now Annie's lover, but he is having a hard time competing with Dylan's memory. After a nasty quarrel with Annie, Evan suggests that both he and Annie reexamine Dylan's death to see if they can uncover any fresh leads. Little does the couple know that by opening up this old case, they are trespassing into dangerous territory.
Meanwhile, Evan has other pressing items on his plate. A series of wealthy young teenaged girls have been found dead, the victims of a serial killer, and he and his colleagues are trying to find clues that will lead to the perpetrator. Equally perplexing, when more corpses of teenaged girls turn up, they are of unidentified Hispanic girls who have never been reported missing by their parents.
Thus begins Mariah Stewart's "Dead End," a fast-paced romantic thriller that features engaging protagonists and a compelling plot. Stewart deftly balances her large cast of characters, including FBI agents, county detectives, and assorted villains and victims. The dialogue is, for the most part, realistic, although there are some stilted exchanges when the loose ends are tied up at the end. Stewart inserts clues and hints along the way to give the reader a fair shake at guessing the outcome, and she also puts in enough red herrings to keep us off balance. However, the outcome will not greatly surprise most attentive readers.
To her credit, Stewart expertly handles the love story between Evan and Annie. They are equals in every sense of the word; both are respected professionals who value one another not just as lovers, but also as human beings. Their relationship provides a solid backdrop to the story, and as their investigations progress, they learn to rely on and trust one another implicitly. Annie and Evan make a good team, both on and off the job. "Dead End" works because Mariah Stewart is a competent writer who doesn't condescend to her public. Her prose style is clear and crisp, her story is complex but not convoluted, and she is not afraid to kill off some good people for the sake of realism. Fans of romantic suspense will find "Dead End" involving and entertaining.