|Kay Hooper: Sense of Evil|
(Hardcover) ISBN 0-553-80300-X
In the world of Kay Hooper's Bishop series, the FBI harbors an under-publicized division of psychic crimefighters, headed by the eponymous psychic and his wife Miranda. The rather engaging early entries in the series more directly involved these two. This most recent volume, the sixth, focuses instead on the exploits of more junior agents of the division.
In the small South Carolina town of Hastings, a serial killer preys upon beautiful blonde women who are successful in their chosen professions. At a loss as to how to stop the murders, hunky Police Chief Rafe Sullivan feels very grateful when the FBI offers to send in one of its top profilers, Isabel Adams. Unfortunately, Isobel happens to be beautiful, blonde and successful in her own profession.
Almost instantly smitten, Rafe's instincts demand that he protect the woman he is swiftly coming to love. But everything indicates that she can protect herself better than he can. Furthermore, she's not the only member of the FBI's psychic team in town.
Rafe's and Isobel's investigation reveals that not all of the victims lived lives as pure as the driven snow. Together, policeman and FBI agent unearth a sordid pattern of sadomasochistic prostitution and probable blackmail. Looking at tranquil Hastings, whodathunkit?
It soon becomes evident that the killer, who like an exhibitionist seems to delight in committing additional atrocities despite the glare of the investigative spotlights, understands fully the danger Isabel represents. In fact, he adds her to his list of future targets. But Isobel, being made of sterner stuff than other beautiful blonde successful professionals, will not relinquish the pursuit.
It's obvious from the first pages that Hooper knows her craft -- but knows it too well. The prologue could have come from just about any psychic-serial-killer thriller, and most of the rest of the novel follows much the same pattern. You read on because you find no good reason to stop rather than because of any surprises, fresh ideas or thrills.
The resolution of the mystery -- the revelation of the serial killer's identity -- involves such prime hokum that one doesn't know whether to giggle or throw the book at the wall. It's no wonder that Hooper embellished the main plot with all the subplotting about the kinkiness beneath the town's innocuous surface. She handles these embellishments pretty well, thereby lifting the book from the rut in which it might have otherwise irremediably stuck.
Sense of Evil does not by any means qualify as an out-and-out bad book. In many ways it succeeds in its intention to pass the reader's time. But it seems to be a book entirely without ambition, the literary analog of a completed paint-by-numbers picture hanging on a friend's wall. You can compliment the friend on the skill, patience and care used to apply the colors, but certainly not on the originality of the artwork.
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