Fri
Aug 4 2017 1:00pm

Review: Kiss Me, Kill Me by Allison Brennan

Kiss Me, Kill Me by Allison Brennan is the second book in the Lucy Kincaid series, where Lucy's search for a missing girl intersects with an ongoing investigation of a serial killer in NYC.

New York Times bestseller Allison Brennan has often defied convention throughout her celebrated career. Case in point: Lucy Kincaid, a periphery character from the author’s oeuvre who was later resurrected as a leading lady. Lucy was first seen in the final book of Brennan’s No Evil Trilogy, Fear No Evil (2007), where she narrowly escaped an imprisonment that was intended to end in her murder, broadcast live on webcam for an eager at-home audience.

Kiss Me, Kill Me is the second novel to feature Lucy Kincaid as a central protagonist, following Love Me to Death (2010). As the story opens, readers find Lucy anxiously awaiting word as to whether or not she’s been accepted into the FBI Academy. Meanwhile, her boyfriend of six weeks, security expert Sean Rogan—business partner of Lucy’s protective older brother, Patrick—has been drawn into the disappearance of high school senior Kirsten Benton, now missing for five days. Despite a history of brief runaways following her parents’ divorce and a relocation to Virginia, she has broken her pattern by failing to return home by Sunday evening and not making contact with her mother. Sean invites Lucy to assist in the investigation, given her unique abilities and understanding of the teenage mind.

In New York City, FBI Agent Suzanne Madeaux is on the hunt for the Cinderella Strangler—a serial killer who has been stalking underground raves to prey on young women and then disappearing into the night undetected. The latest victim, a Jane Doe between the ages of sixteen and twenty, is the fourth death to fit the unsub’s pattern. Scant evidence exists beyond the knowledge that the perpetrator asphyxiates each victim and then removes one of their shoes from each crime scene, reason unknown. Madeaux (aka “Mad Dog”) has one of the highest close rates in the department, and yet she’s stymied; it’s an undeniable source of frustration, and one that’s compounded by the realization that she’s sacrificed personal fulfillment for professional distinction.

The two investigations intersect when Lucy discovers that Kirsten belongs to a social networking forum, Party Girl, which specializes in online sex. She and Sean travel to the Big Apple in pursuit of the girl—known in cyberspace as “Ashleigh”—and subsequently uncover the fact that she was friends with Jane Doe ... and that at least three of the Cinderella Stalker’s victims are associated with the site.

It’s a much-needed break for Madeaux and NYPD Detective Vic Panetta, but their enthusiasm is tempered by the out-of-towners’ interference in their case. Can they put their differences aside for the sake of justice? Or will Kirsten become yet another tally in the growing body count?

Beyond the inevitable pissing match with the locals, Lucy is struggling with old demons that continue to haunt her. When the FBI declines her application for acceptance, it’s a devastating blow that she attributes to her sordid past; this setback causes Lucy to question her abilities and intuition—a collapse of confidence that threatens to compromise the current investigation.

Further, Lucy is fearful that her relationship with Sean may be destined to end in heartbreak, given her tendency to need space and his long history of failed romances. The continued after effects of her rape and victimization only serve to amplify these concerns, though the two may just stubbornly simpatico enough to overcome them.

Lucy is a compelling heroine who carries her baggage with dignity, balancing strength and sophistication with vulnerability. Kiss Me, Kill Me resonates as a reminder that cyberspace is a breeding ground for exploitation and that the potential for both good and evil exists within the ether. This book’s one blight is its repeated use of the descriptor “retarded”—replaced with the terminology developmentally/intellectually disabled—in a narrative that otherwise holds up well.
 

Listen to an excerpt from Kiss Me, Kill Me!

 

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John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.

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