THE LAST VICTIM - Karen Robards
Ballantine Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-53540-5
August 2012
Paranormal Suspense

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina - The Present

Dr. Charlotte 'Charlie' Stone is a psychiatrist who works on the forensic assessment of serial killers at a Virginia maximum security state prison. Her repute is enough to bring FBI agents Tony Bartoli and Buzz Crane to see her. The warden pulls her from a session with the very handsome serial killer Michael Garland to speak with the agents. They want her help to capture the Boardwalk Killer, a serial killer she escaped as a teenager. He has struck again after a fifteen-year interval. That shakes Charlie. Her best friend Holly's entire family was killed during the attack, but the killer abducted Holly for a week of torture and sexual abuse. Charlie doesn't want to go back to Kill Devil Hills, but knows she must.

While Charlie talks with the agents, Michael Garland is being walked to his prison cell. A guard interrupts Charlie's meeting. Another prisoner has stabbed Garland. She rushes to Garland to provide medical aid, but he is bleeding out. With her hands covered in his blood, she realizes Garland's last vision is of her. This upsets her more, for Charlie has a secret. She sees and feels Garland's spirit leave his body. This is not the first human spirit Charlie has encountered, but Garland is the first killer, and she soon learns he will continue to haunt her, for he doesn't want to go to his ever-after place. It's too scary.

THE LAST VICTIM is full of interesting contradictions. Charlie profiles the killer for the FBI, but actually gains her most valuable information from the dead victims' spirits. Plus, she has to contend with the charismatic ghost of Garland and her attraction to him. In the real world, her romantic interest is FBI agent Bartoli. While Charlie deals with her memories and reactions to the Boardwalk Killer's attack on her friend Holly, she is desperate to find the newest missing teenage girl before this horrifying killer claims her.

Author Karen Robards deftly works the issue of Charlie's attraction to a serial killer's ghost into the narrative so the reader witnesses some rehabilitating qualities in this dead murderer, and of course, the ghost, Garland, claims he was innocent of the sex-murder crimes. This is a well-constructed story that will keep readers enthralled.

Robin Lee