Special Agent Jess Harris is about to take on a new job in Birmingham, working for Police Chief Dan Burnett. However, following on from the ending in "Obsession", Detective Lori Wells is now in the clutches of Eric Spears, better known as The Player. He starts a deadly game with Jess, trying to bait her into catching him. He does this by kidnapping various people tenuously connected to her. Whilst the FBI refuses to acknowledge that Eric Spears really is The Player, since Jess bungled the investigation and helped him walk, Jess must use this chance to correct her mistakes and finally bring an end to The Player's reign on terror. Meanwhile, she still continues to have unresolved sexual tension with Dan Burnett.
Okay, so I lied. With my recent acquisition of a Kindle, I was able to purchase this follow-up relatively cheaply, and I figured I may as well find out what happened to Lori Wells at the end of "Obsession". While I can't say this is any step up from "Obsession", it isn't a step down. Thankfully, the romantic subplot doesn't take front and centre, although it does contain yet another tiresome argument between Jess and Dan about who was responsible for their failed relationship. Enough already! These people are supposed to be adults tracking down a serial killer. If I was at the mercy of a deranged murdered who liked to cut women's nipples off, I certainly wouldn't my life in these two hands'. They can't seem to take their minds off each other and their petty problems long enough to solve the case.
Yes, I know this falls under the romantic suspense category and the leads need some sort of tension between them to up the stakes of their relationship, but it needs to rise believably out of the plot or situation. Here, it simply gets in the way. They simply shouldn't be behaving like bickering teenagers when women are being kidnapped and murdered. I didn't like the fact they couldn't just put it aside and get their priorities in order. Especially since they had already bickered about it enough in the first book.
There is a lot of repetition in this book, perhaps to up the word count. Jess hovers dangerously near being a martyr here, constantly agonising over the fact she feels responsible for the women being kidnapped, tortured and murdered. I couldn't help but feel she was partly responsible, since she couldn't act mature enough to put her romantic woes second and her job first, and stop the killer. I also got seriously fed up with the fact she'd always refer to her high heel shoes as "damned high heels" or "blasted high heels". By the halfway point I was yelling at my Kindle: "If you hate your high heels that much stop f***ing wearing them you whinging moron!"
I can't say I liked Jess Harris a lot this go-round.
The violence and torture here is surprisingly hard-edged as well. Some of the violence made me cringe, and I'm generally not phased by lashings of gore in my novels. Perhaps because the rest of this is such run-of-the-mill lightweight romantic suspense. It was somewhat jarring to go from bickering between the romantic leads to descriptions of a tortured woman with her nipples nearly removed. If Debra Webb wants to consider a move into more crime-oriented material, she needs a more even tone. If her main characters are tracking serial killers, their minds need to be more on their work and less on what happened twenty years ago.