Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scream for Me by Karen Rose

Karen Rose is a critically acclaimed American author best known for mixing gritty, hard-boiled detective fiction with red-hot, melodramatic romance. It's a formula that clearly works. Karen's a USA Today best-selling author.

Being something of a snob, however, I wasn't expecting much from my advanced reading copy of Karen's latest novel, Scream for Me (to be released in May 2008.)

I'm not a great fan of the genre and the last detective book I read, Peter Robinson's Friend of the Devil, was enjoyable, but ultimately underwhelming.

What a contrast Scream for Me turned out to be, though.

Just two pages in, I found myself swept up in a barn-stormer of a page-turner, which kept me hooked and guessing right through until the novel's explosive and violent climax.

Scream for Me

Scream for Me is the story of Alex Fallon, a traumatised young woman who left her home town of Dutton, Georgia, thirteen years earlier - after her mother committed suicide the same day Alex's twin sister was found raped and murdered in a ditch.

She's reluctantly brought back to Dutton when her step-sister, a former junkie, goes missing, leaving her four year-old baby seemingly abandoned.

But Alex's return coincides with another violent murder - the daughter of a prominent local citizen is found gruesomely raped and beaten - exactly like Alex's sister had been over a decade earlier.

Special Agent Daniel Vartanian, another haunted former Dutton resident, immediately spots the connection between Alex's murdered sister and this new killing.

But as Alex and Daniel try to uncover the identity of the vicious murderer, they instead discover that their tragic pasts are more intertwined than either of them could possibly have imagined - and also realise that they share a simmering passion for each other which is increasingly difficult to ignore.

Crime and Melodrama

Karen Rose is just a cracker of a writer. Scream for Me could be held up in front of a classroom of aspiring novelists as the perfect example of how to write a detective story.

The plot is carefully paced and planned. The story progresses logically and at a fast-pace, giving the reader satisfying clues every step along the way. Karen's prose is pared to within an inch of it's life. All in all, in blissful contrast to most recent crime/detective fiction, the book simply shines with polish.

I didn't particularly enjoy Daniel and Alex's blistering love affair - which seemed shoehorned into the plot - but romance is one of the defining characteristics of Karen Rose's popularity, so what I didn't enjoy, I presume the majority of her readers will.

But looking past the romantic subplot (despite it being one of the major selling points) we're left with an expertly written crime-drama that holds it's own against more 'serious' detective fiction (like the procedure-heavy books of Peter Robinson.)

Scream for Me illustrates why Karen Rose is so popular and why her books are so acclaimed. In a field dominated by formulaic fiction, she manages to produce something original, unexpected and, most importantly of all, very well written.

Scream for Me by Karen Rose is available in hardback this May.

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