Don't Tell

Have You Seen Her?

Nothing To Fear
by Karen Rose
(Warner, $6.50, R) ISBN 0-446-61448-3
Dana Dupinsky runs a women’s shelter in Chicago. Battered women running from abusive men seek Dana’s help in escaping the cycle of violence. Dana is nothing but dedicated to her job. She poses as a child photographer as a cover, sinks all of her money back into Hanover House, and even breaks the law to help women in need. Dana is quite a little forger when it comes to birth certificates, licenses and the like. Little does she know that the woman with the bruised face that she just picked up from the bus station is a stone, cold killer.

Ethan Buchanan is a former Marine who served in Afghanistan. He was discharged after an incident left him seriously wounded and his best friend dead. Now his best friend’s brother is in trouble and he goes to Ethan for help. Stan and Randi Vaughn return from an anniversary trip to discover that their 12-year-old deaf mute son has been kidnapped. The kidnapper is demanding $5 million in ransom and tells them that if they breathe one word to the police or FBI that Alec is as good as dead.

Ethan is Alec’s godfather, and while he’s not keen on the whole “no cops” thing, he agrees to look for the boy. When the villain’s trail leads to Chicago he meets Dana – neither one realizing that they are connected to the woman who kidnapped Alec. For obvious reasons Dana fiercely protects her true identity, along with the location and work of the shelter. It’s not the kind of lifestyle you spill your guts about to the first handsome man to come along. In turn, Ethan claims to be in Chicago on business – he just doesn’t relay the fact that the business is tracking down a killer and kidnapper. Will these two be able to stop a killer, save Alec, and survive their burgeoning feelings for one another?

Nothing To Fear reads very much like a prototypical suspense novel. Chapters are broken up by multiple points of view, shifting locations and times as the story sees fit. One moment the reader is in Maryland, the next in Chicago. Narrators range from the villain, Alec, Ethan and Dana. Several police officers as well as the Vaughns add to the list of characters. It makes for an action-packed read and keeps the story humming along at a good clip.

The romance here is reminiscent of love at first sight. When Dana and Ethan meet it is instant chemistry. What is nice here is that they aren’t turning gooey and professing undying love after a few meetings. They both have baggage; both have been hurt, so they’re playing it close to the vest. They also are concerned about their lives in different ways. Dana wants to protect the shelter, Ethan wants to protect and find Alec. However, the chemistry between them is so instantaneous, not to mention hot, that it is an attraction impossible to ignore.

What makes the suspense angle interesting is that the villain is bent on revenge, but for a long while the reader doesn’t know why. Rose chooses to reveal this aspect of the story slowly, through bits and pieces, and it makes for an exciting read. Readers should also note that this villain is evil to the point of being sociopathic. Nothing To Fear holds the distinction of being the book with the highest body count I have ever read – and this reviewer has been reading mystery novels for close to 20 years. I wouldn’t call these killings highly gory, but they are violent, and the villain is fond of guns.

This is Rose’s fourth novel in just two years, and it is a highly polished and stylized read. She obviously has the chops to write exciting, edge of your seat suspense and her romance isn’t half-bad either. Nothing To Fear clocks in at 500 pages, but doesn’t feel bloated in the least. Rose manages to keep her plot lean and mean, the suspense cranked up, and her characters jumping off the page to make this story one fascinating read. With authors like Rose forging ahead in romantic suspense it only further proves that the sub genre isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

--Wendy Crutcher

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