Review: Death is Not Enough by Karen Rose
By Janet WebbOctober 1, 2018
Death Is Not Enough by New York Times-bestselling author Karen Rose is the sixth book in the Baltimore series, where the past comes back to haunt a high-profile defense attorney.
Karen Rose’s latest book begs the question: What is the special sauce that keeps her readers coming back? When I reviewed Monster in the Closet in September 2017, I pointed out that Karen Rose’s psychological thrillers are “not for the faint of heart.” Many readers see that as a bonus. Rose has the best villains in the business, if by best we mean brilliant, off-their-rocker, psychopathic micromonsters.
Gang leader Cesar Tavilla genuinely enjoys inflicting both psychological and physical pain on his victims, hence the title Death Is Not Enough. Tavilla revels in torture and violence; painless executions are not his style. Here’s a taste of Tavilla in action, torturing Ramirez, a top lieutenant who betrayed him:
“You bastard,” Ramirez gasped when his wife was brought in, bound and crying.
He smiled. “What is the expression? Pot, meet kettle? You have much nerve, Mr. Ramirez. Your betrayal will hurt so many more people than only yourself. You can excuse us, Mr. Patton, but don’t go far. We’ll need those body bags soon.”
Standing, he removed his clothes, folding them neatly and storing them out of the way in the wardrobe. He liked this suit and didn’t want it bloodied.
Defense attorney Thomas Thorne has always admired his business partner and best friend, Gwyn Weaver. Gwyn and Thorne have both struggled to overcome very difficult childhoods, but time has brought them some measure of peace. Thorne wants more than friendship.
After four years, he thinks he might finally be ready to confess his feelings, come what may.
But his plans are derailed when he wakes up in bed with a dead woman—her blood on his hands and no recollection of how he got there. Whoever is trying to frame Thorne is about to lead him down the rabbit hole of his past, something he thought he had outran long ago. Thorne must figure out who has been digging into his secrets, how much they know, and how far they will go to bring him down…
With Karen Rose, “what’s past is prologue”: the history of every character has a way of affecting the present. Many have endured horrendous childhoods or have physical injuries to overcome. Psychological issues arising from torture, rape, or traumatic loss are not uncommon. Karen Rose, however, has a healthy attitude—there is no presupposition that time will heal all pain. The healers in her world are medicine, mental therapy, and money. And love. Love of family, friends, and that special person. Stevie Mazzetti and Clay Maynard, the couple in Rose’s Watch Your Back, exemplify this brand of practical love.
“Stevie was having trouble getting up and down the stairs to the basement with her cane, and one day she tripped. The next day Clay had the elevator company here.”
Elevators, arsenals in walk-in gun safes, security cameras, geniuses at hacking—Thorne is very fortunate in the resources his friends muster in his defense. They’re family; they believe in him, and there’s nothing they won’t do to help him. That’s a phrase one often reads, but in Death is Not Enough, the risks to Thorne’s circle are horrendous—they are shot at, a house is torched, law clients are threatened—they literally put their lives on the line.
Another interesting aspect is the respect for and tension between law enforcement and the tight team of protagonists. Thorne has a capable team that is prepared to protect him up to and occasionally beyond the edge of legality, but Tavilla’s vendetta is such that both state and federal investigators, of necessity, are involved. Gwyn Weaver has her own thoughts on cooperating with the cops—she has known good ones, but she’s also known some who don’t “truly wish to serve.” No one is going to force her to cooperate.
She shrugged. “But I don’t work for you. Anything I choose to share is voluntary unless I’m subpoenaed. Or arrested.”
Thorne and Gwyn are up against it to figure out why someone wants to destroy Thorne’s life, and when they realize it’s Cezar Tavilla, they don’t know why. The death count ratchets up while Thorne and Gwyn uncover betrayals within their organization, all the while under non-stop pressure. Gwyn’s deepest worry is that if “one of them died,” she knows, “Thorne would walk away to protect them.”
Reading Death is Not Enough takes a strong stomach and enough time to race to the finish, but it’s well worth it.