Hot Blooded by Lisa Jackson
(Zebra, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6841-7
****
Hot Blooded focuses on a New Orleans radio talk show. The show’s host is psychologist Samantha (Dr. Sam) Leeds who gives advice nightly on “Midnight Confessions.”

The French Quarter awakens one morning to read of the murder of a prostitute. Left at her bedside is a $100 bill with Benjamin Franklin’s eyes blacked out. When the second victim is found in this same condition, the police know they have a serial killer.

Meanwhile, Samantha receives what is first perceived as a crank call from “John” on the air advising her that she must repent her sins. John’s fixation on Sam accelerates and then a new element is introduced into the mounting tension. One night Sam receives a call from “Annie,” a woman who has been dead for nearly a decade.

Annie had been the reason that Sam left her popular Houston talk show nine years prior. Annie Seger was a teenager who had called in for advice on several nights claiming she was unable to tell her parents she was pregnant. Sam made several efforts to urge her to seek counseling and then was stunned when the child committed suicide. Blamed by Annie’s family, she accepted the responsibility and ensuing guilt, feeling she had not done enough.

Later, the radio owner and part of his staff moved to New Orleans and drew Sam out of retirement with the same type of offer. Divorced from a jealous husband since early Houston days, the story opens as Sam decides her affair with David Ross is not wise and she breaks it off. Ty, a new neighbor, contrives to meet her and against all her common sense quickly becomes her new love.

The public swiftly becomes aware that “John” is stalking Sam, and the popularity of the show greatly increases, generating more and more ad revenues. Detective Bentz, who will be back in Jackson’s next suspense story, gradually starts exploring the possible connection between “John” and the serial killer.

Hot Blooded is a remarkably complex and logically constructed novel. There are a myriad of characters, each adroitly constructed in such a way that suggests his guilt. The character development is skillful, and the periods when the pacing slows is utilized to further layer the characters. The dialogue is crisp, although perhaps a little too much time is spent in the radio booth of the talk show.

The romance between Ty and Sam evolves quickly and passionately and contributes interest and even suspense to the story. If there is a fault to this book, it would be that there are too many possible solutions to the identity of “John.” But since every potential suspect is well developed and logically credible, it is hard to complain.

Hot Blooded personifies the romantic suspense genre and being set in sultry New Orleans adds yet another dimension to the enjoyment. The companion novel, Cold Blooded will be released in June, 2002, and I look forward to reading it.

--Thea Davis


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