Carved in Darkness by Maegan Beaumont involves a serial killer-rapist, his victim, and her fight to make him pay for his brutal crimes (available May 8, 2013).
The first chapter of this book is very graphic and contains triggers that may bother some readers (the synopsis tells you what you’ll find there). Beyond chapter one, however, the book is highly suspenseful and will keep you reading to the end, even if you skip that first chapter.
Sabrina Vaughn isn’t who she says she is, or at least she wasn’t fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago, she was Melissa Walker, but Melissa died at the hands of a serial killer who raped and tortured her for eighty-three days before leaving her body on the grounds of a church. Melissa doesn’t exist anymore except in pieces. Little things like the way Sabrina ties her boots. A few mementoes in a box. A ring on a chain around Sabrina’s neck.
For someone who keeps people at a distance, who can’t or won’t allow herself to be involved in relationships, Sabrina is surrounded by people who care about her. She’s been raising her younger siblings as her children.
“Mom? Can I?”
She looked up. Jason was staring at her, Scrabble tiles in his hand and a concerned look on his face. Game over, she and Jason were putting the game away while Val and Riley loaded the dishwasher. Somehow, over the years, she’d become mom instead of sister—a natural progression of the time and love they both felt for her.
She has booty calls bringing her flowers.
“That’s okay. I’ve got a nine a.m. study group. I could lock up when I left,” he said, willing to take any crumb she tossed his way. It made her feel angry and guilty all at once and she couldn’t help but think of Nickels. The way he’d looked at her in the hallway outside Richards’ office and, again, later, when he’d tried to get her to confide in him.
Matt, Nickels, O’Shea. Even Strickland. They all wanted things from her she just couldn’t give.
“Sounds great. Let’s shoot for next time.” She stood and pulled on a pair of boy shorts in addition to the tank she was already wearing. She never took her shirt off during sex and Matt never asked why. The majority of her scars had faded with time, and what hadn’t was easily explained away by the hazards of her job. But there was no explaining what had been done to her stomach. Looking down, she saw the bouquet of daisies he’d ambushed her with was on the floor, next to his pants. She kicked them under the bed.
She has a grandmother whose concern may cost her dearly.
“Would it kill you to call me Grandma?” Lucy said in her usual no-nonsense way.
“Please...please explain to me why you told Michael O’Shea where I am—who I am. Of all people, why him?”
“He was headed your way and I asked him to look in on y’all,” Lucy said.
“I can take care of myself.”
“I know.” Lucy sighed. “But I’m your grandmother, no matter what you call me. I’m allowed to worry about you.”
She has a best friend, who stays by her side no matter what.
“She should’ve died—it would’ve been more merciful if she had. When she finally woke up, she opened her eyes and I could see it. Melissa was gone."
He didn’t have to ask, he knew what she meant, had thought the same thing himself. “They fixed her face.”
“Yeah, they flew in a plastic surgeon that specialized in facial reconstruction in from Boston. I gave him pictures of what she looked like...before. He told her that he couldn’t make her look exactly like before but that he’d come close. He promised to make her beautiful again.” She laughed. “Do you know what she told him? She said make me ugly.” She rolled her eyes. “She couldn’t actually say anything, her jaw was wired shut. She wrote it.” She jerked her chin at the box. The scrap of paper he’d seen suddenly made sense. “The poor guy looked like she’d asked him to perform her surgery drunk and blindfolded.” She gave a shrug. “That was when I knew she was gone for good and there’d be no getting her back.”
“But you stuck around? Why? Out of guilt?” he said.
“At first. Then one day I realized that even though I still loved and missed my friend, I had a new one that I loved just as much. Everything is different—her voice, her face—the way she takes her coffee but sometimes I still see Melissa in the little things. The way she ties her shoes, the way she eats her French toast...”
And she has coworkers who refuse to let her down no matter how much she insists.
He gave her a deadpan expression. “Perhaps you’re confused on how a partnership is supposed to work—let me break it down for you. We help each other. Trust each other.” He leaned forward in his chair and glared at her. “We tell each other when we decide to commit career suicide and pursue suspects off the clock.” He delivered the last line in a low tone meant for her ears only.
On the way back to the station, Nickels watched them both, his temper showing plainly. “You’re an asshole,” he said to Sanford, his voice loud enough to quell the incessant chatter that filled the small space.
“She saved your life and you practically shit on her.” Sabrina felt her stomach hit her boots. The last thing she needed right now was a confrontation.
“Nick—don’t,” she said quietly, but they both ignored her.
She has built a life even if she feels like an imposter and initially she’s not willing to give it up to catch a man she tries not to remember. Slowly, she comes to understand that he’s still active, that once a year he takes another. But it’s after his pattern changes. After she realizes it’s only a matter of time before the one he takes is her sister/daughter, Riley, that she’s willing to risk it all.
Sabrina thought she left behind all traces of Melissa, but it turns out the goodness that was in Melissa, the beauty, was more than skin deep. That no matter how much she’s altered her outside appearance, her mannerisms, her habits, deep down she’s the fierce and fiercely loyal girl who puts those she loves above herself.
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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).
Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.