Review: Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose is the fifth book in the Baltimore series, where a father-daughter reunion puts innocent victims in the sights of a stone-cold killer.

Monster in the Closet is not for the faint of heart. It embraces the deep psychological wounds of three brave females—two young sisters and an equine therapist-in-training—and their intense journey to happiness is cathartic and believable.

There’s a Russian proverb, “Trouble never comes alone,” that sums up Monster in the Closet. It’s the 19th in Karen Rose’s romantic suspense series and the 5th of the Baltimore subset, although Monster in the Closet seamlessly incorporates past plots as needed. 

The “monster in the closet” is revealed in the prologue. No one picked up 11-year-old Jazzie from school, so she made her way home on her own.

She stopped on the landing. The front door to their tiny apartment was ajar and Jazzie could feel it. The … wrongness of it. The heavy dread she could actually taste. And it tasted bad. It was … She wanted to cry. Toilet smells.

Not again, Mama. Not today.

But it’s so much worse. Jazzie hears “a man’s voice, swearing.” He’s in the coat closet, tearing things apart and yelling. Jazzie recognizes his voice: it’s her mother’s ex-husband Gage Jarvis. Then, she trips on a high-heeled shoe, “and it was still on Mama’s foot.” Her mother is dead. Jarvis wipes himself and the apartment down with bleach and leaves.

Jazzie didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. She just sat and rocked and stared and told herself that it was just a dream. A bad, bad dream.

The theme that runs through Monster in the Closet is fraught, fearful relationships between daughters and fathers. Californian Taylor Dawson was raised in fear that her psychotic birth-father, Clay Maynard, would somehow find her. Her mother confessed on her death bed that she made up the entire story; Taylor had been lied to all her life.

Taylor is compelled to seek out Clay to see for herself if he’s a monster in truth. She’s a recent psychology grad; her skill set earns her an internship at an equine therapy center in the Baltimore area. And who should her first clients be but a traumatized, mute Jazzie and her little five-year-old sister, Janie. 

Baltimore PI Clay Maynard routinely locates missing children for clients, but his own daughter—stolen by his ex-wife—has eluded him for years. Until she turns up right under his nose. 

Since she was a child, Taylor Dawson believed the lie her mother told her: that her father was a monster. But now she has a chance to get to know the real Clay while doing real work as an equine therapist, which includes helping two girls whose mother was brutally murdered.

Taylor has Clay’s eyes. When the folks at the treatment farm realize that, events crescendo. Clay is not a monster, he’s a loved and respected member of a group that encompasses FBI agents, PIs, policemen, and judges—these are good people, and they don’t want him hurt. But it’s been the heartbreak, the curse of his life never to have found his daughter. It’s not just Taylor and Clay, who cry when they are finally reunited.

“It’s you. Isn’t it? Is it really you?”

Taylor nodded once, then blinked, sending new tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice tortured. “I’m so damned sorry.”

In a rush, Clay pulled her into his arms, his big shoulders shaking, and for the first time Ford saw his friend cry. Not just a tear or two, but deep wrenching sobs that tore Ford’s heart out. He couldn’t have held his own tears back no matter how hard he tried.

Happy tears for the reunion Clay had sought for so many years. Sad tears for the years they’d lost because of a lie. Anguished tears for the apologies that Taylor was repeating over and over.

The time for tears and new beginnings is short-lived, however, because Gage Jarvis is back in town, racing to snuff out anyone who can finger him as his ex-wife’s murderer. It’s a desperate manhunt to find Jarvis before he tracks down Jazzie. Clay and his newly found daughter Taylor work side by side to protect Jazzie and Janie. They make a badass team. Monsters and murderers don’t stand a chance.

Cathartic. Clay and adopted daughter. Taylor’s wonderful father. The hatred Jazzie has for the man who raised her. New beginnings, new family constellations—all at risk with a race against time.


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


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