A Cry in the Night

Depth Perception

Fade to Red

The Shadow Side

A Whisper in the Dark

 
Overkill by Linda Castillo
(Sensation, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-21829-7
**
“I’m one of those people who believes in second chances.”

That’s how the grammar-impaired hero of Overkill explains why he’s offering a job to the anger-management-challenged heroine.

You see, Chicago cop Marty Hogan had beaten up this guy she’d seen kill a little kid. The whole episode was caught on tape and televised repeatedly as an example of a rogue cop and police brutality, the most famous such incident since the Rodney King beating. Marty blames a “hostile media” for making her the most hated cop in America.

She was fired from the police force then charged with felony assault, but a jury took the extenuating circumstances into consideration. Now, however, no other police department will touch her. Only Clay Settlemeyer, police chief of the Caprock Canyon, Texas, has offered her a job.

Besides being one really good-looking guy, Clay is the single father of an elementary school-aged daughter Erica, an accomplished rodeo barrel-racer. Erica’s mother had abandoned their daughter when she left him for a rich older guy, that all-too-familiar scenario thereby giving the hero extra credit for being a great parent as well as an additional tax deduction.

Marty settles into the routine of policing a small town which involves being Rufus the Police Dog on school visits, breaking up bar fights, and a lot of driving. Then she gets a phone call. Her Chicago police partner has been viciously tortured and killed. Marty is deeply affected by the news.

The man Marty beat up had ended up in prison for his crime. There he was brutalized and severely injured by white supremacy inmates. His brother and sister, who are thoroughly evil, vow to wreak vengeance on those who put their brother in his situation. Their arrival in Caprock Canyon is only a matter of time.

This romantic suspense novel has one good thing going for it: Clay Settlemeyer, the really nice, decent beta hero. He’s a bit on the bland side, but he’s a loving father and a good boss. You’ve got to wonder why his ex-wife would even be thinking about greener pastures, but there are a lot of that type in romance fiction these days. She plainly didn’t deserve him.

Frankly, Clay also deserves better than the female protagonist. Marty Hogan is a cop heroine in the Eve Dallas tradition (from J. D. Robb’s “In Death” series) without the soft edges. She’s hard, she’s tough, she’s foul-mouthed. What she isn’t is heroine material. She’s the kind of character who is usually the understanding heroine’s best friend from kindergarten who needs fashion advice and a good haircut. The transition to romantic heroine is unconvincing.

As a romantic suspense novel, Overkill is underwhelming. The brother and sister bad guys are revealed almost from the beginning; a subplot is their planning to make Marty pay and pay dearly. Now obviously, Clay and Marty will survive because they’re the hero and heroine and any other outcome is impossible so there’s not much suspense. Not much romance either. There’s no chemistry to speak of between them. A dearth of unmarried females of suitable age in Caprock Canyon seems the most likely reason that Clay is interested.

Overkill is well paced and flows evenly, but the minimal suspense and mismatched romance pairing make this one for second thoughts.

--Lesley Dunlap


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