After Twilight

Everything in Its Time

Midnight Rain

A Promise

Dancing in the Dark
by Dee Davis
(Ballantine, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8041-1978-3
Sara Martin is a photojournalist with Texas Today, a weekly publication. Two years ago her husband and young son were killed in an accident. Sara has not yet come to terms with their deaths and still wears her wedding ring. Recently she’s been getting annoying prank phone calls at night. Even though the caller doesn’t speak, Sara is understandably worried. Bess, a coworker suggests she report them to her husband, a police officer.

Bess’s husband is out when Sara stops by the police station, but she meets with Eric D’Angelo his partner. Eric and Sara are immediately attracted to each other. She reluctantly agrees to a date.

Eric has been working on a series of murders believed to be committed by a single individual, the Sinatra Killer - so-called because of his signature. The women have been killed in different ways, but a Sinatra love song is playing near the body.

As Sara and Eric become closer, a connection between Sara and the murder victims is discovered. How does this point to the culprit? Can Sara herself be a target?

Sara and Eric are nice enough characters, but there’s nothing particularly exciting or original about Dancing in the Dark. The plot seems cobbled together from a number of sources including Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie Psycho.

A successful romantic suspense novel needs a good suspense subplot and a strong romance. By those standards, Dancing in the Dark doesn’t rise about the acceptable level. A weak aspect is that the suspense subplot is thin compared to police procedural mysteries. Eric and his partner do a lot of sitting around talking about the Sinatra killer but little real investigating. The heavier emphasis on the romance over the suspense doesn’t sufficiently compensate for that weakness, but neither does it overwhelm it.

Sara is portrayed as a woman who has overcome a deprived childhood and survived a horrible personal tragedy. Her actions, however, do not seem correspond with the woman she’s supposed to be. Rather than revealing a core of inner steel, Sara’s behavior is more in line with the classic Gothic heroine who doesn’t quite know what to do and needs a man to keep her safe. Furthermore, Sara’s and Eric’s romance seems more a result of timing – they’re both ready to find someone new – than any great cosmic connection.

The secondary characters are one of the book’s strengths. Sara’s and Eric’s friends often come across as more interesting than either of them. The scenes where Sara’s friends are trying to push her back into getting back into the dating scene are more lively and entertaining than many of the scenes between the two main characters. Similarly, conversation between Eric and his partner has a more natural feel than other sections of dialogue.

With its strong secondary characters and balance between mystery and romance, readers who enjoy romantic suspense might want to consider Dancing in the Dark.

--Lesley Dunlap

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