Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Obsession" by Debra Webb

Jess Harris is an FBI Agent whose career is in the dumps after a botched attempt to nail a serial killer. She returns to her hometown in Alabama to help the local police solve the mystery of four missing women. She has a history with police chief Dan Burnett, and the romantic tension between them is still evident.

When a fifth woman goes missing, Jess must put her unresolved feelings for Dan, and her guilt over her failed career, behind so that she can place all her focus on tracking the abductor. It's personal for Dan, as his stepdaughter, Andrea Denton is one of the kidnapped women. As for Jess, she also has to deal with the fact the serial killer she failed to catch - The Player - is now walking free and seemingly stalking her.

Debra Webb is a romantic suspense author with quite a prolific output. The publishers here seem to want to convince us that this is her "thriller" debut - that is, a straight out crime-thriller rather than a romantic suspense novel. On that front, it's a bit of a fail. This is romantic suspense through and through. There is just as much focus on the unresolved relationship between Jess and Dan as there is into the investigation of the missing women. It actually got fairly repetitive. There is also romantic trouble between Lori Wells and Chet Harper, two of Dan's detectives. So anybody thinking they're picking up a serial killer thriller is going to be sorely disappointed.

When it isn't devoting its time to Jess and Dan's romantic woes, it's not too bad. It actually reminded me quite a lot of the TV show Criminal Minds. You could easily see this plot in an episode of that show. The sequences with Andrea and the kidnapped girls are well-done, generating the sort of suspense that a good serial killer thriller should provide. The motive of the abductor is slowly revealed as the novel progresses, and it was a nice change from what you normally find in crime fiction.

The other big problem is the subplot involving The Player. Having another serial killer lurking around the fringes just detracts from the main story. It's only really around so that Webb can set up the events of the next novel. That's a bit of a problem if you're not totally captivated by the current story and don't plan on getting the next novel. But I'm getting off course here.

Jess and Dan's rocky romantic past just took up too much focus for my liking. Even though there are five women missing, and events are getting crucial as the story speeds towards its conclusion, it stops dead in its tracks so that Jess and Dan can have their Big Moment. A long, seemingly never-ending bicker about who was to blame for their relationship failing. Even though Jess keeps saying throughout the story: "we have to find these girls!" she spends an awful lot of time arguing with Dan or having gooey romantic fantasies about him. Tiresome.

It's not awful. It's a romantic suspense novel. Not a thriller. That should let you know whether you want to read it or not. Kind of like a Harlequin Mills & Boon novel with a bit of Criminal Minds thrown in, Obsession won't have me tracking down the follow-ups, but it was a diverting read.

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