Montlake / April 16, 2013 / $12.95 print, $9.99 digital (retail)
Four months ago Huntsville, Maine, was rocked by the evil deeds of a serial killer…who got away. Mandy Brown barely survived the killer’s attack…and only that thanks to a timely rescue by Danny Sullivan, brother to one of the victims who escaped. Unable to move on, Mandy now runs her family’s inn and hides the anonymous threats that arrive in her mailbox. Until Danny returns to town, determined to hunt down the killer and stirring up old unanswered questions…and unaddressed feelings for Mandy.
Mandy doesn’t want Danny to hunt for anything too afraid his doggedness will uncover her secrets…secrets that could get her family killed. But the longer he stays, the closer he gets both to answers and to Mandy’s wounded heart. And when people once again begin to mysteriously disappear in the wilds of Maine, it’s slowly becomes clear the killer is far from finished with his ritualistic murderous plans…plans that feature Mandy center stage.
Melinda Leigh's Midnight Sacrifice starts with Mandy’s attack opening this competent romantic thriller on a high note to which it takes a while to return. Emotionally scarred from the trauma and subsequent family setbacks, Mandy is barely managing to hold it together, caring for her ailing mother, developmentally challenged brother, and the inn all with a .38 in her pocket and shadows outside her door. For his part, Danny comes back to town driven by a need to give his sister and Mandy some peace and closure, but he’s also looking to prove himself after an IED explosion in Iraq left him with severe nerve damage in his hand...and significant identity issues complicated by PTSD.
For most of this book, everyone is waiting: waiting for the next note, waiting to see if the killer is still alive, waiting to see who his accomplice might be…there’s a lot of waiting. It’s a slow build over a short period of time broken up by bursts of subtle if terrifying menace against Mandy, a house fire, and Danny’s growing frustration as his investigation continues to bang up against the protective walls of small town life and Mandy’s refusal to cooperate. But as Danny and Mandy dance around each other romantically, things pick up as the killer snatches new victims for his murderous denouement, raising the stakes for Danny and Mandy as they get ever closer.
Leigh’s deft hand with crafting real-life characters shines, especially in her honest dialogue. She easily brings the Maine landscape to life and her descriptions of the inn and Mandy’s daily tasks of running it are detailed enough to draw the rooms around you but short enough not to bog you down in the wainscoting.
All in all, Midnight Sacrifice is a comparable entry in the romantic thriller genre with enough mystery to keep a fan of this genre interested coupled with a gentle romance amidst along the road to mutual recovery.
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