Kill and Tell by Linda Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm a big fan of LH's earlier romantic suspense novels, but her latest releases have failed to catch my interest. Kill and Tell is one of her oldies and, IMHO, a very good one.
The story starts with Dexter Whitlaw, a Vietnam veteran, sending a "mysterious" package to his estranged wife. Unbeknown to him, she died a few weeks ago and it's their daughter, Karen, who receives the package. Still grieving for her mother's death and resentfull of her father, who left them when she was only a teenager to never come back, Karen doesn't give the package any importance, sends it to a storage house along with her deceased mother's belongings, and forgets about it.
Fast foward 6 months, and Dex is killed in a New Orleans street. Homicide Detective Marc Chastain is assigned to the case, and he soon suspects that there's more to it than the "simple" murder of a homeless John Doe. But solving the murder of a homeless man isn't top priority for the police, so as soon as the body is identified as belonging to Dexter Whitlaw, all Marc is left to do is contact his family (aka Karen) and get her to take care of his funeral.
Karen works as a nurse at the surgical floor of a hospital in Ohio, and she's still not fully recovered from the loss of her mother. When Marc tells her her father is dead, she doesn't know how to feel about it. He's been a virtual stranger to her but, out of duty and respect for her mother who never stopped loving him, Karen flies to New Orleans to identify and claim her father's body.
Marc doesn't really like Karen at first - he finds her too cold and unfeeling - but it doesn't take long until he realizes that's just a facade and, in fact, she feels too much behind her controlled behavior. That's when he falls hard and fast for her and, knowing time isn't on his side, begins an intense courtship. Oh boy, I wish I had a man like Marc to help me whenever I'm facing a difficult time! ;)
Things get complicated when a 2nd body is discovered in Mississipi. Even though there are no visible links, Marc feels the two murders are connected and starts investigating. This calls the attention of the CIA, the bad guys get antsy and, suddenly, Karen has the killer after her. But why? What do they want with her? What was in the package sent by her father?
If I didn't make it clear before, let me tell you again: I loved Marc! He was protective, caring, and totally devoted to Karen. Some readers thought he was a bit manipulative, taking advantage of her distress to seduce her, but I really didn't see it that way. Was she feeling vulnerable and needy? Yes, but it wasn't like anyone would do. No, she wanted Marc as much as he wanted her. And he wasn't after a one-night stand, he just felt the need to speed up his intense courtship because she was leaving in 3 days and he wanted to hook her on a relationship with him before she left and put him behind her. Desperate times call for drastic measures, LOL.
It took me longer to like Karen. I thought she was too cold and passive at first, but then I understood she was basically on the verge of depression and I could definitely relate to that. Been there, done that. She won me over when she managed to escape a near-death situation all by herself. Gotta love an intelligent heroine who doesn't have a single TSTL bone in her body!
I have one small complaint about this book: it's somewhat short and could have used 50 or so more pages to develop Marc and Karen's relationship, IMHO. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to read All the Queen's Men, the next book in this miniseries loosely connected through John Medina's character.
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