Published by Harlequin MIRA on July 27, 2021
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
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Also in this series: Phantom Evil, The Hidden, Heart of Evil, Haunted Destiny, Deadly Fate, Darkest Journey, Dying Breath, Echoes of Evil, The Summoning, The Seekers, The Unholy, The Dead Heat of Summer, The Unforgiven
She is someone's darkest desire
Playing the victim of a vampire king on an island off New Orleans is actress Avalon Morgan’s creepiest role to date. It’s also scary good fun—until the victim of a real killer is discovered on set, laid out for all to see. With production shut down, Avalon can’t stop thinking about the chilling crime scene, or Finley Stirling, the FBI agent working the case.
With a rising body count and zero leads, Fin can’t help but be impressed by Avalon’s amateur sleuthing, which takes her to the darkest corners of the internet, where killers confess their crimes. One such account is a dead ringer for the murders, but when the evidence vanishes, nobody believes Avalon—except for Fin. With no one they can trust, Avalon and Fin are determined to unbury the truth at any cost, but a return to the deadly island could be the last thing they do.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Gripping but disturbing
The Forbidden was more gripping than The Unforgiven, the previous book in this series, but I ended up with mixed feelings about it.
Like The Unforgiven, The Forbidden takes place in New Orleans; the hero, Fin Stirling, was involved in the former case. While the book is just as formulaic (which is admittedly one of the things I like about this series), it has more tension, both in the narrative and between the main characters. I also felt more invested in Avalon and Fin and their relationship than I was in Katie and Daniel, the main characters in The Unforgiven. They are both a little stereotypical for this series, but I found them enjoyable despite the antagonism Avalon feels toward Fin for suspecting her friends and colleagues… which goes on for quite a while, even as they work together to solve the crime.
The mystery kept me guessing almost until the end. There are a number of suspects, and circumstantial evidence could apply to most of them. I wasn’t able to narrow down the field any faster than Fin does, and at least one aspect of the eventual solution came as a surprise, which is always a plus.
Given those qualities, I would have enjoyed The Forbidden as a light summer read (in the sense of easily and quickly devoured.) However, I found one aspect of the serial murders deeply disturbing, enough to creep me out and leave me feeling very uncomfortable. Frankly, I would have avoided reading the book if I had been aware of that aspect of the content. Since I know that comfort levels vary widely when it comes to reading about the darker side of human psychology, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. On the other hand, if you’re curious, squeamish, or have specific triggers, I think a warning here is appropriate (click to view):
To be honest, I considered DNF-ing the book several times, but it was an ARC, so I felt sort of obligated… and I did want to know whodunnit. In the end, though, I kind of wish I hadn’t read it. It took a day and a nice, palate-cleansing romance novel before I could stop thinking about the really creepy bit. I know plenty of other readers will be able to take that in their stride, because it’s fiction. If that’s you, and you enjoy this series overall, go for it—there’s plenty here for series fans to like.
Note: I compromised on the rating. Had it not been for the part that made me so uncomfortable, I would probably have given the book 3.5 or 4 stars. Based on my personal reaction, I would have dropped it to 2 stars. So 3 stars seemed like a fair compromise.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Seasons 2021: Summer