If you read Kay Hooper's SCU/Bishop books, then this is a very familiar read and you will probably enjoy it. I did. I'll read the other two entries, too. Two of my main caveats are for readers without a familiarity to Kay Hooper's typical style of thriller and her tendency to write trilogies. I feel the book suffers for being the lead-in for a trilogy, there are some lacks and lags in the plot, and the elements of the book are too familiar Kay Hooper elements- which, to me, feels a little unsatisfying.
It is good, when viewed in a familiar context- Psycho Killers and psychics and ghosts and a lot of references to evil. If you read KH, then you know she can be a little grim, at times. We get a new lead heroine in Jesse Rayburn who is an operative with Haven- the privately owned and operated analogue to the FBI's Special Crimes Unit (SCU) that has popped up in a few of KH's previous books. Jesse returns to her small hometown to investigate something from her past interfering with her psychic abilities. And, that is the gateway to unfolding the mystery. Anyway, without treading over the story, KH delivers a very familiar killer story. That is good and bad. Familiarity is great if that is what you are looking for. But, it also makes the story a little more predictable and less suspenseful.
I'm trying to avoid spoilers because, I think, KH has a very definite story arc going on here. And, I'm going to try not to spoil it with too many facts about the story-line.
The trilogy problem- The book feels a little unfinished and had some uneven pacing. It seems that this book will probably be one in a true trilogy- at least I hope that is the case- because parts of the story felt rushed or were left hanging mysteriously (I hope they'll get addressed in the next books). For example, we find that two of the characters met previously but in mysterious and weirdly shady circumstances. The author definitely left a vibe that THERE WAS MORE TO THAT STORY. But, we didn't get any of that background. Even though it was so odd as to practically demand a back-story (and it didn't feel like a teaser- the two just were like- "Yeah, shady meeting. Moving On.") It rushed the heck out of the process of reader's getting to know these two characters as potential leads. Next, I didn't like the swap of roles later in the book. Because of issues with some characters having a MUCH better characterization and others with a much more shallow characterization, it felt kind of sloppy. Like the shallow character was just slated to get ditched from the beginning so why bother really writing up their character. And, the book crawled at some points. KH really likes to highlight her killers stalking and hunting- so that moves fairly slowly in the wind-up phase of the mystery. But, we don't get the same treatment for our detectives. At least four separate individuals were working on the same case at the same time, yet we don't get as much detective work as some readers may like. They all kind of solved it at the same time from different points- and the readers were the ones left out of those investigations. That is when the book flashes by at the speed of light- the solving the mystery stage. For example, there was a scene where a character figures out her partner knows who the bad guy is. He doesn't tell her but tells her he figured it out because he read a lot of preliminary background on the case and the person's name kept coming up. AND ALL OF THIS HAPPENED OUTSIDE THE STORY. Too much happens outside of the story.
And, the crucial plot twist? Whatever, I don't even want to discuss the non-resolution of that one. I hope that is addressed in books two and three.
And the characters... There were some issues, I felt, with getting to know the characters, as a whole. Like the situation described above, it seems like characters were just plopped in front of you and described but didn't really get all that fleshed out in the story. Jesse and her sister- two important and central characters- were defined as being "not close", "detached", and awkward around each other. So, getting to know those characters and their relationship barely happened in the course of the narrative. It seemed as if because Jesse was the heroine, we were supposed to just like her automatically. And, I really didn't care that much for her. She was secretive, not that nice to her sister, brusque, inappropriately stubborn, and, I thought, not that good of a secret agent that she could behave with all the swagger of not telling anyone anything ever. There was even a little teaser as to Jesse's mysterious past -not the part the book deals with but the other 15 years- didn't pan out and we were told nothing. I thought the sister had a better characterization- she seemed more sensible for the larger part. Again, I think some of these characters will come up in later books but why can't I know more about them when I meet them?
There were some elements that Kay Hooper uses fairly often. An operative going back to their childhood stomping grounds to solve a mystery that's been bugging them, the rural setting, the not-so-undercover back-up. And all the mention of evil and foreboding vibes. Maybe I was flashing on Blood Ties too much. But, it felt like she was setting up something similar here. Like the Big Bad of the overall story arc will be like that creepy preacher from Blood Ties who wasn't just a bad guy but some incarnation of absolute evil who is not limited to normal bad guy crimes but is capable of supernatural nastiness. Everyone who came to the little town commented on how much dread they felt- it just felt like a little overkill compared to the actual story. Except, is this part of the trilogy? We got nothing of the bad guy's motivations- seriously, the book pretty much ended right then and there. So, is there more to him or were we deprived of all the lovely post-investigation explanation?
Again, if you like Kay Hooper, this is a very comfortable read. I enjoyed it. I just hate new series. It means I have to wait to read the rest of the story and that always makes me a little nuts. But, if you are cool with that, then you'll be fine.