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Also in this series: Flawless
Someone is murdering beautiful young women in the New York area and displaying them in mausoleums and underground tombs. The FBI is handling the case, with Special Agent Craig Frasier as lead.
Kieran Finnegan, forensic psychologist and part owner of Finnegan's, her family's pub, is consulting on the case. Craig and Kieran are a couple who've worked together on more than one occasion. On this occasion, though, Craig fears for the safety of the woman he loves. Because the killer is too close. The body of a young model is found in a catacomb under a two-hundred-year-old church, now deconsecrated and turned into a nightclub. A church directly behind Finnegan's in lower Manhattan.
As more women are murdered, their bodies discovered in underground locations in New York, it's clear that the police and the FBI are dealing with a serial killer. Craig and Kieran are desperate to track down the murderer, a man obsessed with female perfection. Obsessed enough to want to "preserve" that beauty by destroying the women who embody it"
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
A Perfect Obsession kept me involved and guessing almost until the end the book. Graham knows how to start with a bang and maintain the suspense; her pacing is excellent and her storytelling compelling. The main characters, Kieran and Craig, are engaging and make a good investigative partnership, even if Craig would prefer keep Kieran out of his cases. The plot, while not exactly original, offers more than enough suspects and an appropriately frustrating lack of useful clues to keep me unsure of the murderer until a scene or two before the reveal—and I wasn’t absolutely certain until the reveal. Nonetheless, as with Flawless, I liked but didn’t love this novel.
At least this time, I know why. First, I’m squeamish when it comes to books about serial killers, especially if the book goes deeply into their psychology or gets inside their head. It’s surprising that I like Heather Graham’s books so well, particularly the Krewe of Hunters series, since they often do involve serial killers. But Graham doesn’t always go into depth regarding their twisted psychology; she tends to focus more on the “solve the mystery, find the killer, protect the innocent” angle, which is easier for me to deal with. A Perfect Obsession digs a little deeper into the psychology, partly because Kieran, the female protagonist, is a forensic psychologist, a profiler. Figuring out the killer’s motivation is her job, so naturally it’s going to get a fair bit of page time. There were a few times I had to mentally step back, distance myself from the story and the characters to keep from getting too creeped out. That’s a personal thing, so obviously, if reading about serial killers isn’t an issue for you, it won’t affect your enjoyment of the book at all.
Second, while I really enjoyed the chance to see Kieran and Craig again, I was also a little disappointed. Craig is the perfect FBI agent and boyfriend, but he doesn’t get much character development this time around. I didn’t feel like I knew him any better at the end than I did at the beginning, and he leans ever so slightly toward being a stock character instead of a well-rounded, complex human being. Kieran is more complex, at least in this novel, and she gets a little more character development. She is also a bit more sensible than she was in Flawless, but early on, she pulls another of those let’s-keep-a-secret-even-though-it’s-important-to-the-investigation things that had me rolling my eyes and heaving exasperated sighs. Seriously, Kieran? You didn’t learn from the last escapade that it’s not a good idea to hide things from the FBI, and an even worse idea when the FBI guy is your lover?
To be fair, Kieran is keeping someone else’s confidence, not hiding something she did. And she does persuade that person to come forward before too much time has passed. . . but it still bothered me. I’ll give her a pass this time, but I hope she doesn’t keep pulling this stuff. I have a problem with secrets; they don’t belong in an investigation or in a relationship.
The third thing that bothered me is stylistic: the dreaded infodump. Heather Graham researches before she writes—that’s good; that’s necessary; it’s an important part of creating a believable setting and even getting the plot to work. But in A Perfect Obsession, she dumps a lot of that information in large chunks of dialogue, resulting in one character (not always the same character) giving lectures to another—in this case, a whole slew of history lectures and tour guide talks—that are clearly intended to inform the reader as well as the other character. I know it’s not always easy to find ways to convey information that’s important to the plot, but A) some of this information was more window-dressing than critical, and could easily have been pared down, and B) it almost always sounded like someone is parroting a history book or travel guide, which is just. . . clunky.
Would I read another in this series? Yes, absolutely. Complaints aside, it was an entertaining and at times gripping story. And I like Kieran and Craig, and Kieran’s brothers; I look forward to more adventures with them.