Tall, Dark and Deadly
by Lorie O'Clare
(St. Martin's, $6.99, R)  ISBN  0-312-94341-5
**
Let it first be said that I personally do not appreciate erotica, so the rating reflects that.  What the rating also reflects is the poor quality to the supposed suspense to Tall, Dark and Deadly.  The second heart is there primarily to indicate that O'Clare did manage to stick with the story to the end, and that there is a complete if abrupt ending.

Grace Jordan is a new detective in a small South Dakota town, fleeing her horrible past with her young daughter. For five years, Grace was held captive as a sex slave of a man she knows only as Master.  When the opportunity to get herself and Rachel out of the house presented itself, Grace burned the place to the ground.  Following years of therapy, she finally finds the nerve to become a cop - a childhood dream.

"Dream" may not be the word to apply to a career in law enforcement, which is made abundantly clear with her first case in her new town.  Two teenage girls have been raped, tortured, and brutally stabbed to death.  As the case progresses, and Grace is drawn further and further into the pits of her memories, several more girls will follow.

For reasons that are never made quite clear besides that he's from Rockville, Special Agent Justin Reece is on the case as well, and pretty much refuses to work with anyone but Grace due to some very vividly depicted lustful thoughts.  Though Justin appears to have made it pretty far in the FBI, he's an even worse investigator than Grace, constantly feeling her up and demanding deep, soulful conversations that always lead to him wanting to f*** her.

Grace and Justin do a lot of big talking about the case and a lot of picturing themselves having sex, but don't do a whole lot about either.  It becomes pretty obvious from the get-go - though Grace vehemently denies it and everyone else seems oblivious - that Grace's past is involved. Several times the reader is supposed to be outraged on Grace's behalf when townspeople blame her appearance for these crimes.  Since it's true, the semi-intelligent reader will most likely just agree.  There are a few other characters of lesser morals than even our not-too-upstanding hero and heroine that will make people wonder for a while, but the big bads aren't too hard to identify.

One remarkable thing about Tall, Dark and Deadly (a title which, contrary to what the cover would have you think, actually applies to the unsub and not to Justin) is Justin's fairly true-to-real-life past.  A divorced man with a bitter ex-wife, a disgruntled stepson, and a doting daughter of whom he sees little, Justin could stand to up the ante in his family life and knows it. He finally gets around to putting a little effort toward that in between murders and heated makeout sessions with Grace.

Grace, on the other hand, is wholly unbelievable.  Her tragic past doesn't seem to affect her as much as it ought, and flashbacks to some of those scenes just don't jive. Naturally, Grace is perfect in every way, but she suffers from an inability to focus on anyone but herself, even with young women being murdered left and right and her own daughter at risk.

O'Clare is due to have out another romantic suspense involving an FBI agent, but I certainly wouldn't recommend picking it up, even if you do manage to finish Tall, Dark and Deadly.

--Sarrah Knight


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