|Don't you hate it when a novel with a great premise, tight writing
and a gruesome villain goes to pot because of a dud of a hero and a
give-away mystery? That, in a nutshell, is the tragic fate of A
Whisper in the Dark.
By day, Julia Wainright runs an upscale secondhand bookshop in New
Orleans's French Quarter (pre Katrina, I believe); by night, she
writes erotica. Her father is a minister. Since he is up for the
directorship of his church, she's been very careful not to let anyone
know she is Elisabeth de Havilland. Someone has found out anyway and
is stalking her. Unaware of her double life, her father hires John
Merrick, a former Chicago cop and the son of an old family friend, to
John isn't sure he wants the job; he isn't even sure he can do it.
See, several months ago, John accidentally shot and killed an
undercover DEA agent on a drug bust. He's been cleared of homicide,
but he still can't get over it. Yes, what happened to him is
horrible. Yes, it's difficult to put it behind. And yes, I like
heroes in need of (self)forgiveness as much as the next reader. But
John Merrick is truly unbearable. When he's not cursing the fact that
he's killed a man, widowed his wife and orphaned his children, he's
downing a bottle of whiskey. When he's not bemoaning his inability to
protect Julia, he's coming to terms with a really bad hangover. "Are
you sure he's competent?" Julia's sister, among others, asks after
several such incidents. Gee, what do you think?
Then, there's the fact that John immediately lusts for Julia, but of
course he knows he isn't good enough for her. Does he walk away?
Nope. First, he throws jealous tantrums about the other men in her
life. Then, he shows up at a party for family and friends and insists
on speaking with her - in private if you please. To give her the low
down on his investigation? Nope. To demand some pretty intensive
tongue-to-tongue action. I guess he's not too worried about preacher
There's not much of a romance. Julia goes straight from
lusting for John to sleeping with him to deciding she's in love. She
must think herself the healing type because I can't figure out where
else the attraction lies. Then again, she isn't exactly the brightest
light around. She does that too stupid to live thing and walks out,
at night, by herself, with her cell phone off. (Okay, she does carry
a can of mace and packs a really good kick, but that isnít enough,
not with some loco stalking her.)
John somehow manages to stay out of a drunken stupor
long enough to figure out a thing or two. He even manages to chase
down a red herring. The real criminal, however, is pretty obvious.
He's as nasty as they come, and readers with weak stomachs should
probably stay away. That is, if they aren't already turned off by the
Castillo can write though. Do you think we could send
the book back and ask her to start all over again?