After Caroline

Finding Laura

Haunting Rachel

Hiding in the Shadows

Out of the Shadows

Stealing Shadows

Yours 2 Keep

Touching Evil by Kay Hooper
(Bantam, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-553-58344-1
“The same way I know who he is. Not a face, not a name. Just evil. Just evil alive and walking around pretending to be human. I have to stop him. I have to.”

Maggie Barnes isn’t a cop, but rather a talented artist working for the Seattle police department. Maggie has a knack. She speaks with victims of violent crimes, and uses their recollections to draw very accurate sketches of the perpetrators. The cops she works with just think that she’s incredibly talented, but it’s much more than that; so, when a terrifying madman starts preying on the city’s woman, Maggie finds her “talents” pushed to the limits.

The madman is actually a brutal, serial rapist that abducts women, literally blinds them, and dumps their bodies in isolated places, leaving them for dead. One such woman was Christina Walsh, who eventually committed suicide. Christina’s death brings John Garrett into town, a powerful businessman who manages to muscle his way into the investigation. He’s determined to get answers, and the minute he meets Maggie, he knows she’s the one who can provide them.

However, as the rapist begins escalating his activities, and the city comes under the grip of panic, John knows he’s going to have to call in a few favors. That means bringing an old friend into town - an old friend who happens to be a psychic and an FBI agent.

Touching Evil is a full-force, page turning, suspense-driven read. As I write this review, I tell myself that the above plot description must be (in fact has to be) vague in order for potential readers to really fall under this story’s spell. Hooper provided enough twists and turns to her story, that it had this reader anxiously gripping the pages and not leaving my couch for hours on end.

Maggie is the sort of strong-willed heroine that I enjoy reading about in suspense stories. She’s smart, observant, with a steely almost untouchable reserve. John is also smart and driven, with a head for business, and a reality firmly grounded in the practical. Initially, he is skeptical about Maggie’s gift and that of his FBI agent friend, but time and again when he’s confronted with the extraordinary, he opens his mind to reach outside of the box.

Hooper made a splash last year with her Shadows trilogy, but Touching Evil has crossover smash written all over it. Not only is the suspense gripping stuff, but also she skillfully weaves in a believable, budding romance, and the paranormal. In fact, the author has me swallowing the psychic angle with nary a skeptical thought entering my mind.

While I enthusiastically endorse Touching Evil, it is not a book for everybody. For one thing, this story earned my graphic violence rating. The very nature of the rapist’s crimes is a real stomach churning, and one of the victims in particular is a real gut-wrencher. There’s also a little unfinished business regarding Maggie’s half-brother, another talented artist with a “knack.” Since this is the first book in a new trilogy, I’m hoping the author isn’t quite finished with him yet.

Hooper fans will be happy to note that this new series is loosely connected to her earlier Shadows trilogy (hence John’s FBI agent friend), with Noah Bishop’s FBI task force playing a big part in the investigation (although Bishop himself only makes a brief appearance).

Hooper has been moving away from straight-up romance for the last several years, and if she keeps churning about books like this, I seriously doubt her fans will have any problems with it. If the New York Times Bestseller’s List is any indication, this author is moving up in the world, with plenty of readers ready to follow along for the ride.

--Wendy Crutcher

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