Book 1 of The Last Stand series
I’m officially convinced that Brenda Novak knows what she’s doing in suspense. Either that or the timing was just right--I didn’t have to be anywhere important in particular, erego, I didn’t see the harm in spending more time than necessary finishing the entire book of Trust Me in one go. Not that there ever is any harm in spending more time than necessary reading… ever.
Pfft… “more time than necessary reading”... There’s never enough time to read all the books I want to read anyway, so I always take advantage whenever I get those free days where I can just finish a book uninterrupted.
Because that is what happened, just the way it happened with the other three books of hers I’d read. And the beauty of it was, aside from the story concept, telling, and progression, the rest of the book was actually just mediocre. So being drawn into it the way I got drawn into the book is some feat, I’ll admit. These are definite page turners.
Reading these books feel like watching a movie filled with thrill and suspense and you just can’t seem to stop until it’s finally all over.
Skye Kellerman was attacked in her home by a prominent man in society nearly three years ago, a dentist from a well-respected home named Oliver Burke. Though she managed to defend herself and escape by stabbing him with a pair of scissors and testify at trial to put him in prison, she soon learns that Burke is now being released early on parole. David Willis, the detective who had investigated this case, is convinced that Burke is still a danger to society and has yet to be linked to the rape and murder of three other women--obviously no one else has connected that no other women seemed to be murdered or attacked since Burke was incarcerated, but lack of evidence is always a pisser in investigations.
Unfortunately for David and Skye, Oliver Burke is a master of enigma and so long as he continues to assume his innocence and persona of a good, genteel man, no one believes he is a monster capable of the deeds (we readers become privy to the truth early on in the book). His side of the story is that Skye had lured him to her place and her bed, then went crazy while on drugs, and then attacked him for no reason.
The story’s concept is pretty straight forward and predictable: Once this guy gets out of prison, obviously his first mission is to finish what he’d started before he was caught. The story progression’s set up was intriguing: following the day-to-day activities of all the people around this man’s life as they anticipate his release from prison throughout the week. And the barrage of reactions are interesting to observe: Skye’s fear and foreboding for what he’ll do when he gets out, David’s frustration at not being able to keep the man in prison, Jane Burke’s anxiousness to see her husband again while at the same time reluctance to give up on an affair she’d begun with his brother, and so on.
So the way in which the story panned out as well as other secrets and mysteries on the side were what was most important in this book. You already knew what was going to happen; now we sit back and watch it unfold in its suspenseful, page-turning glory, counting down to the moment when Burke is released from prison, all secrets come to light, and all hell breaks loose.
Because that’s exactly what I did.
And it was quite entertaining. I’m going to admit that despite how mundane a lot of the scenes and even the repeat investigation of Burke and the three murders happened to be, it was still intriguing to see what new discoveries could be made or what would happen to our hero and heroine, or how the two of them could convince the rest of the world the truth of what they knew, but had no evidence to back up.
The characters weren’t the best or the most relatable, though I did like Skye for her independence and her strength. Sometimes she bordered on TSTL, but managed to protect herself through attacks on her anyway, so I’m not complaining too much. Despite the fact that she still tortures herself over the events of being attacked three years ago, she managed to pull herself together and take measures to ensure that she would never so easily be victimized again. And so I especially like her relationship with her partners at The Last Stand and the concept of a charitable organization to help victims of violent crimes is intriguing--it was nice that few other cases were inserted into the background as a kind of introductory to what The Last Stand does for people.
The rest of the characters were pretty typical, though I found it hard to like Jane Burke despite her gradually pitying state as she goes from believing in her husband a hundred percent, to a slight niggling of doubt, to the horror of realizing her husband is the monster that Skye and David kept telling him he was. The workings of Jane’s mind was kind of amusing to following, although I found it hard to sympathize with a lot of her earlier moments in the book--the adultery, the blame game, the “woe is me” schtick… The fact that she was more concerned about how her husband’s conviction and arrest had ruined their standing in society and embarrassed her rather than worrying about her husband’s well being was of hard to comprehend considering she truly believed that he was an innocent man. The fact that she so easily falls into bed with his brother is telling of how weak their marriage had been to begin with despite her outward appearances of devotion.
The Burke family irritated me with all their “holier than thou” attitudes. For instance, when the fact about the affair between Jane and their older son, Noah Burke, came to light, you could tell that they blamed her more than Noah because, when push came to shove, whe was always going to be the outsider. Their comments about how Skye was “obviously capitalizing on the being a victim” by creating The Last Stand, and that she was obviously taking money from the non-profit organization to live luxuriously when their son is in prison and their daughter-in-law and granddaughter are living in a dumpy neighborhood really irked my nerves. Because for all I can see, the Burke family is pretty well off, so I never understood why Jane and her daughter couldn’t live with grandma and grandpa for a duration until she could get herself back on her feet.
Finally, we come to David Willis, whom I’m not sure I’m a hundred percent in like with at all. In a way, he’s a good guy with good ideals and his heart is in the right place. He just doesn’t seem to know how to put his goodness into good use aside from being a cop and working to protect and serve. Otherwise, his own personal life is a shambles of his own doing, and no matter what, the way he handles it is kind of anger-inducing. The way he strings along Skye with impressions that he wants to be with her, but telling himself that he needs to “do the right thing” and return to his ex-wife and son to try and make their family work… is kind of an asshole thing to do. Even after Skye deliberately tells him to leave her alone so she can move on with her life, he continues to hover around her, and giving her hope that they could have a relationship of some kind. I don’t care that his heart was in the right place, or that he was conflicted, he was still being a dickhead about it.
You don’t string along to relationships and then act as if you’re the one who’s suffering about it. My goodness, it was a simple equation. Either you want to be with Sky and you figure out a way to make it work and still take care of your son (because unconventional families are NOT uncommon nowadays); or you get back together with your wife to make your traditional family life work (not that a loveless marriage ever really works, y’know), and leave Skye the heck alone!
What really did it for me was when one of his mind meanderings had him convinced that, due to Skye’s job, her obsession with exercise and weapons, and the emotional scars left her from Burke’s attack on her, she would make a terrible stepmother for his son. I don’t even know how to respond to this one, because it’s such a condemning, final decision. He’s really grasping at any reason to not get together with Skye, despite the fact that he’s always the one initiating contact. He’s determined that her life is imbalanced and her work with victims of violent crimes will always be putting herself and those around her in danger… and he can’t have his son being around a mother like that.
I’m sorry… you’re a POLICE DETECTIVE ! Pot calling the kettle… what job is more dangerous than one of the few uniformed ones where you’re always putting your own life in danger by investigating heinous crimes, arresting dangerous criminals, and possibly having stand-offs with someone who could shoot you to death?
So it’s okay for Detective David Willis to put his life and the lives of others around him in danger with HIS job? You know, cause he couldn’t possibly have made dangerous enemies of his own by putting violent felons behind bars... But it’s not okay for Victims’ Advocate Skye Kellerman to be working a similar type of life-threatening job? Not that I advocate any kind of putting anyone’s life in danger, but isn’t this a bit double standard and neanderthal for him to be making that kind of judgement call?
And then he even has a gall to tell Skye that he doesn’t like what she does for a living nor does he think she should learn to protect herself and that she’s getting carried away with all this self-defense stuff; and she should let others do the protecting… so that she doesn’t put herself in danger? How does that even make sense? What’s wrong with learning how to shoot and handle a gun and owning a few weapons and knowing how to take care of herself? What’s wrong with letting yourself feel safe in your own home?
Heck, her self-defense instincts and her gun saved her life twice! And you know… where were you Detective Willis? Where were the “professionally trained” who would be able to protect her?
Because from what I gathered, David Willis wasn’t going to be the one to step up and take care of her for her if she stops taking care of herself. And he practically oozes male possessiveness around her when she tries to move on with her life… but at the end of the day, they both know that his plans for the future only include getting back together with his ex-wife in order to give his son a complete family. And he has the balls to mope about how hard this is for him and how conflicted he is and “oh, woe is me”?
But anyway… despite my extreme dislike for David Willis (which made me overlook all the TSTL moments that Skye had, which weren’t many anyway, and like her more) and how he deals with his personal life, at the very least he makes for a good cop and a good father. I can’t fault him for that. He just has no idea how to handle anything outside the realm of police investigations. I certainly don’t hate him, but I don’t like him either.
Conclusion: A page-turning suspense novel with a frustrating romance angle. Entertaining and exciting nonetheless. Not the best characters, but I’ll take it.